Update for 5:30 p.m. EDT September 29: NASA and SpaceX announced today that they are conducting a feasibility study on the potential use of a Dragon spacecraft to boost the Hubble Space Telescope’s orbit and possibly service it. Check back soon for a story that details this study. You can listen to the press conference and announcement above.
NASA will hold a press conference today (September 29) on a mysterious and intriguing new study, and you can listen live.
The briefing, which begins at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT), “will discuss a new study exploring potential commercial space opportunities for NASA science missions,” agency officials said. written in a statement (opens in a new tab). Watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly through the space agency (opens in a new tab).
The participants in the briefing are:
- Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate
- Kathy Lueders, Associate Administrator, NASA Space Operations Mission Directorate
- Jessica Jensen, Vice President, Client Operations and Integration, SpaceX
- Jared Isaacman, commercial astronaut and commander of Polaris Dawn
- Patrick Crouse, Hubble Space Telescope Project Manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Related: SpaceX’s Private Crew Polaris Dawn Talks Their Ambitious Mission (Exclusive)
NASA did not provide further details on the study, but this list of panelists gives rise to juicy speculation.
polar dawn, for example, will send Isaacman and three crewmates into Earth orbit aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule. This will be the second private orbital mission for Isaacman, who funded and commissioned SpaceX inspiration4 flight in September 2021.
Polaris Dawn is scheduled to launch no earlier than March 2023 and spend up to five days in orbit. If all goes as planned, the mission will reach a peak altitude of about 870 miles (1,400 kilometers), moving the crew farther from Earth than any astronaut since the Apollo days. Polaris Dawn will also feature the first-ever commercial spacewalk, an interesting detail given that a member of the Hubble team will be participating in today’s media call.
The The Hubble Space Telescope launched in April 1990 and continues to operate today, thanks in large part to five servicing missions performed by NASA astronauts aboard the now retired spaceship from 1993 to 2009. It probably tests credulity to suggest that Polaris Dawn could visit Hubble – would NASA leave an experimental private spacewalk anywhere near the iconic and valuable scope? – but maybe one of his follow-up missions will.
Polaris Dawn is the first of three planned flights in the Polaris program, led by Isaacman. Few details about the next two missions have been released, but the second will likely use a dragon as well. The third will use Spatialship, the massive rocket-spacecraft combo that SpaceX is developing to take people and cargo to the Moon and Mars. Indeed, the Polaris Mission 3 Site Invoices (opens in a new tab) as “the first human spaceflight on Starship”.
Could Polaris Mission 2 or Mission 3 be a maintenance flight to Hubble, a chance for NASA to repair and upgrade the venerable observatory for the first time in over a decade? We’ll just have to listen to today’s briefing to find out.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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