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Astroscale & Momentus Partner To Offer Hubble Reboost Concept

Astroscale and Momentus have annouced they have partnered together to present NASA a plan to raise the orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Mon May 15 2023Written by Zac Aubert

Astroscale and Momentus have annouced they have partnered together to present NASA a plan to raise the orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The annoucement comes as NASA evaluates various proposals offered to the agency in response to NASA's request for information (RFI) issued in December 2022. Astroscale and Momentus submitted a joint concept for raising the orbit of the Hubble telescope, which has been slowly descending since its last shuttle servicing mission in 2009.

The proposal put forward by the two companies involves attaching a vehicle to the telescope and using Astroscale's docking and satellite life extension technologies in conjunction with Momentus' orbital transfer vehicles.

According to the plan, a Momentus orbital service vehicle, launched by a small launch vehicle, would approach the Hubble telescope and attach itself to it using Astroscale's technology. The vehicle would then raise the telescope's orbit, which currently stands at approximately 527 kilometers, by an additional 50 kilometers before undocking. Additionally, the vehicle could potentially be employed to remove orbital debris in the vicinity of the Hubble telescope.

"We found our product suites to be synergistic in support of a major NASA mission. I am thrilled that we collaborated to offer NASA a very cost-effective way to continue to operate this billion-dollar scientific investment by leveraging new robotic in-space servicing technology." - John Rood, CEO of Momentus

The two companies decision to work together was driven by the recognition of the opportunity to enhance the in-space servicing ecosystem on a larger scale and provide NASA with a commercially viable, all-American small business solution. The partnership would also help in reducing schedule risks and sharing costs.

NASA indicated in its RFI, that it anticipated any selected companies for the Hubble reboost mission would be under a "on a no-exchange-of-funds basis." NASA itself would not directly procure the reboost mission but saw it as a potential demonstration of satellite servicing capabilities that might attract paying commercial or government customers.

According to a NASA spokesperson, the agency received eight responses to the RFI, which are currently under review. Astroscale and Momentus are the only ones that have made their response public.

NASA stressed that the RFI is solely intended to assist the agency in determining whether and how to reboost the Hubble telescope's orbit. The responses serve as information for the government to consider while deciding on any next steps.

This development follows NASA's announcement three months ago that it had signed a Space Act Agreement with SpaceX to explore a Hubble reboost mission using a Crew Dragon spacecraft. The proposed mission could potentially be part of the Polaris Program, which involves private astronaut missions funded by billionaire Jared Isaacman. However, neither NASA nor SpaceX has released details about the study's findings, which recently concluded. 

The Hubble Space Telescope remains in good condition and is highly sought after by astronomers. However, its orbit is gradually decaying due to atmospheric drag, and NASA has previously estimated a 50% chance of the telescope reentering Earth's atmosphere by 2037.