Orbiting high above the Earth, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) obtains its extraordinary view of the Universe. Hubble is one of NASA's crown jewels and has remained on the forefront of astronomical science for the past decade. To do this Hubble has been continuously maintained and upgraded with cutting edge technology.
As Hubble enters the last stage of its life, WFC3 - Wide Field Camera 3 - will be Hubble's next evolutionary step, allowing Hubble to peer ever further into the mysteries of the cosmos.
NASA Sets Target Shuttle Launch Date for Hubble Servicing Mission
NASA announced that space shuttle Atlantis' STS-125 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope now is targeted to launch May 12, 2009.
Problem Delays STS-125 Launch
Due to the significant HST malfunction affecting the storage and transmittal of science data to Earth, the SM4 launch date has been moved into 2009.
NASA Approves Mission and Names Crew for Return to Hubble
Shuttle astronauts will make one final house call to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope as part of a mission to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced plans for a fifth servicing mission to Hubble during a meeting with agency employees at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Servicing Mission 4 Update
The Hubble Space Telescope Program, resident at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, continues to work toward a possible Servicing Mission 4 (SM4) in late-2007 or early-2008. Prior to an HST SM4 being approved by the NASA Administrator, the Shuttle must perform two consecutive successful flights: STS-114 (July of 2005), and STS-121 (July of 2006). In addition, an engineering risk analysis also must demonstrate a high degree of safety for the Shuttle and its crew in an SM4 flight to Hubble. Completion of the analysis is expected late October of 2006.
New NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has announced that robotic servicing of Hubble will not be performed, because of excessive cost and risk.
However, he has authorized the HST Project to return to preparations for a shuttle-based Servicing Mission 4. He indicated that a formal decision whether or not to fly SM4 with the shuttle will not be made until after successful shuttle return-to-flight. However, in view of the likelihood that SM4 will ultimately be approved, he authorized work toward carrying out that mission to proceed so that SM4 can be ready for launch efficiently once the final servicing decision is made. This is excellent news for WFC3 and provides clear direction for us to systematically work through the instrument "liens" and get it into tip-top shape for launch.
WFC3 has completed a major milestone: its first end-to-end thermal-vacuum test.
In preparation for this test, the instrument was fully integrated with all flight subsystems (optics, detectors, electronics, heat pipes, etc). Because of the uncertain status of the servicing mission, this was not intended to be the final integration of the instrument: issues discovered along the way in putting the instrument together for this test were only resolved if necessary to get the instrument to a state in which a "performance characterization" could be carried out. Hence, if the program is restored to a flight status, various "liens" on the hardware will need to be addressed.
Nonetheless, the instrument performed extremely well overall, producing high quality images in both the UVIS and IR channels, with detector performance in excellent agreement with previous subsystem results. Performance from an engineering standpoint was very good as well -- in six weeks of vacuum testing, the instrument did not once need to be brought up from vacuum to deal with a hardware problem.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has authorized the HST project to study the possibility of servicing HST robotically.
The goals of the Hubble Robotic Servicing and Deorbit Mission (HRSDM) would be to install a de-orbit module for safe re-entry of HST after its mission life, to install new batteries and gyros to extend the observing lifetime of the telescope, and to install the new instruments WFC3 and COS to enhance its scientific performance.