# Hypothetical Hubble Rescue

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Alright guys and gals, here's the situation. Despite being an engineer, I'm not up on orbital math like some of you, so this is mostly a "Can anyone tell if this is even within the realm of possibility?" type question. Enjoy.

As we all know, or are learning now, the Hubble Space Telescope is in Low Earth Orbit at around 300 miles altitude. For reference the ISS is at about 250 miles. Hubble weighs about 24,500 lbs (11,110 kg) and is described as being 43x14 ft (13.2x4.2 meters) in size. What I propose as a possibility is the following: In short, utilize the Falcon Heavy as an unmanned recovery platform for the Hubble.

The FH incidentally is 39.9 ft (12.2 m) in diameter. http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy

I think the problem should be broken down into three aspects, the first is, regardless of HOW we go about attaching, securing, landing this whole thing together, does the FH have the dV to get up there to that orbit and land with that increased payload? The second is, can the FH carrying such a weight land at all? The third is, what sort of difficulties could we run into with the part where we attach and secure the Hubble to the FH?

I've got a few random ideas on this, but do not take them as requirements for your solutions and proposals.

First off, at current time how much effort, if any, is going into establishing a reusable 2nd stage rocket at SpaceX, is largely up for debate. I've heard reports that they are still working on it, others that say the effort has been shelved for the near term, etc. Given this, I posit that rather than attempting to use a system that doesn't exist yet (somewhat ironic of course, given that the FH has yet to fly, but it at least has prototypes under construction), we proceed along the lines of utilizing the FH without it's second stage rocket. Obviously this changes a lot of the equations a fair bit, that's for you all to discuss. I would state that the second stage is likely replaced by an extension to the main core of the FH, providing it with extra fuel for both the main rockets as well as the orbital maneuvering jets. Obviously any such system is going to need a some form of robotic arm/grappler, if only to help close up the satellite. For re-entry shielding purposes, I think one of NASAs deployable doughnut shields fit around the interface between the FH and the Hubble will suffice.

Assorted possibilities to consider, if Hubble has any usable amount of propellant on board, it could be used to intentionally lower Hubble's orbit for the intercept with FH, thus reducing the dV requirements of the mission AND reducing Hubble's mass.

Edited by Mazon Del

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1 hour ago, Mazon Del said:

Alright guys and gals, here's the situation. Despite being an engineer, I'm not up on orbital math like some of you, so this is mostly a "Can anyone tell if this is even within the realm of possibility?" type question. Enjoy.

As we all know, or are learning now, the Hubble Space Telescope is in Low Earth Orbit at around 300 miles altitude. For reference the ISS is at about 250 miles. Hubble weighs about 24,500 lbs (11,110 kg) and is described as being 43x14 ft (13.2x4.2 meters) in size. What I propose as a possibility is the following: In short, utilize the Falcon Heavy as an unmanned recovery platform for the Hubble.

The FH incidentally is 39.9 ft (12.2 m) in diameter. http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy

I think the problem should be broken down into three aspects, the first is, regardless of HOW we go about attaching, securing, landing this whole thing together, does the FH have the dV to get up there to that orbit and land with that increased payload? The second is, can the FH carrying such a weight land at all? The third is, what sort of difficulties could we run into with the part where we attach and secure the Hubble to the FH?

I've got a few random ideas on this, but do not take them as requirements for your solutions and proposals.

First off, at current time how much effort, if any, is going into establishing a reusable 2nd stage rocket at SpaceX, is largely up for debate. I've heard reports that they are still working on it, others that say the effort has been shelved for the near term, etc. Given this, I posit that rather than attempting to use a system that doesn't exist yet (somewhat ironic of course, given that the FH has yet to fly, but it at least has prototypes under construction), we proceed along the lines of utilizing the FH without it's second stage rocket. Obviously this changes a lot of the equations a fair bit, that's for you all to discuss. I would state that the second stage is likely replaced by an extension to the main core of the FH, providing it with extra fuel for both the main rockets as well as the orbital maneuvering jets. Obviously any such system is going to need a some form of robotic arm/grappler, if only to help close up the satellite. For re-entry shielding purposes, I think one of NASAs deployable doughnut shields fit around the interface between the FH and the Hubble will suffice.

Assorted possibilities to consider, if Hubble has any usable amount of propellant on board, it could be used to intentionally lower Hubble's orbit for the intercept with FH, thus reducing the dV requirements of the mission AND reducing Hubble's mass.

No, I cant tell you, No, Yes, Major problems, Second stage is behind recycling fairings and nose cone, For the second stage to be recycled they would have to be able to fair over a heat shield on the engineering bay. And that would need fairing to get off the launch pad.

Hubble can be repaired by transporting astonauts from ISS in a crew crarrier, it will need a telescoping arm. It really needs new batteries, some rcs and some new solar panels. The alternative is to remotely attach it to a dragon via arm and carry it down to ISS not to much of a problem and gave the astronauts repair it there. Taking it back to earth is essential program ending.

You do not have a platform on the hubble to attach to a docking port it would have to be welded on in space. For the second

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Also even if you did manage to de-orbit the Hubble with a heat shield, I very much doubt it was built to survive a 9-12 g ballistic re-entry

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7 hours ago, Steel said:

Also even if you did manage to de-orbit the Hubble with a heat shield, I very much doubt it was built to survive a 9-12 g ballistic re-entry

Probably not. And where are you bolting on a parachute?

13 hours ago, PB666 said:

No, I cant tell you, No, Yes, Major problems, Second stage is behind recycling fairings and nose cone, For the second stage to be recycled they would have to be able to fair over a heat shield on the engineering bay. And that would need fairing to get off the launch pad.

Hubble can be repaired by transporting astonauts from ISS in a crew crarrier, it will need a telescoping arm. It really needs new batteries, some rcs and some new solar panels. The alternative is to remotely attach it to a dragon via arm and carry it down to ISS not to much of a problem and gave the astronauts repair it there. Taking it back to earth is essential program ending.

You do not have a platform on the hubble to attach to a docking port it would have to be welded on in space. For the second

I think he means take it back to Earth to put in a museum after it "dies", which would be cool.

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3 minutes ago, KAL 9000 said:

I think he means take it back to Earth to put in a museum after it "dies", which would be cool.

Wasn't that an idea they had ages ago, using the shuttle to take it down? It's a pity it  would probably be far too costly.

I wonder if it could be at all feasible and plausible to put it in a museum orbit. Like a graveyard orbit, but with different connotations.,

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16 hours ago, PB666 said:

No, I cant tell you, No, Yes, Major problems, Second stage is behind recycling fairings and nose cone, For the second stage to be recycled they would have to be able to fair over a heat shield on the engineering bay. And that would need fairing to get off the launch pad.

Hubble can be repaired by transporting astonauts from ISS in a crew crarrier, it will need a telescoping arm. It really needs new batteries, some rcs and some new solar panels. The alternative is to remotely attach it to a dragon via arm and carry it down to ISS not to much of a problem and gave the astronauts repair it there. Taking it back to earth is essential program ending.

You do not have a platform on the hubble to attach to a docking port it would have to be welded on in space. For the second

Use FH or other launcher to bring up a probe with RCS, an OMS, and fuel. The probe clamps to Hubble. Then, orbits are matched with ISS, and rendezvous is set up. The probe, with Hubble attached,  is docked onto the ISS. From there, the required repairs are made, the probe is refueled. Then, Hubble is boosted into stable orbit.

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Though by "safe disposal of Hubble", I'm not sure if they really intend to bring it down safely.

Anyway, as of today, we have no craft able to bring back a large cargo from orbit. STS was good at it (one of its very few advantages over expandable rockets) but there is no replacement that would have the same ability planned that I know of.

Edited by Gaarst

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55 minutes ago, Gaarst said:

Though by "safe disposal of Hubble", I'm not sure if they really intend to bring it down safely.

Anyway, as of today, we have no craft able to bring back a large cargo from orbit. STS was good at it (one of its very few advantages over expandable rockets) but there is no replacement that would have the same ability planned that I know of.

Dock a Cannae to it, have a robot walk around and plug power into hubble, then shut off scope and over about 10 years decay the orbit into earth. But, alas, im not ready to pull the plug, send it to ISS and before ISS mission's ends and have it upgraded again.

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If we REALLY wanted to recover it I am sure we would find a way. But what's the point? Once back on earth it's just a relic. You could scrap it and recover some resources from it but bringing it back would have cost more to begin with.
All you can do with it is display it. Is it really worth that much?

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6 minutes ago, Tex_NL said:

If we REALLY wanted to recover it I am sure we would find a way. But what's the point? Once back on earth it's just a relic. You could scrap it and recover some resources from it but bringing it back would have cost more to begin with.
All you can do with it is display it. Is it really worth that much?

Its one of the most productive scientific machines ever built/recovered/upgraded by man. Lets use its museum value as a sole justification to revive the shuttle program . . . .heh-heh.

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10 minutes ago, PB666 said:

Its one of the most productive scientific machines ever built/recovered/upgraded by man. Lets use its museum value as a sole justification to revive the shuttle program . . . .heh-heh.

So use one of the most scientifically productive machine ever built by man to revive the greatest waste of money ever in the history of spaceflight ?

On second thought, just leave it up there.

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35 minutes ago, Gaarst said:

So use one of the most scientifically productive machine ever built by man to revive the greatest waste of money ever in the history of spaceflight ?

Not if we strap the shuttle to a Falcon9, as we all know the Falcon9 makes everything cheaper and more efficient, lol.

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40 minutes ago, Gaarst said:

So use one of the most scientifically productive machine ever built by man to revive the greatest waste of money ever in the history of spaceflight ?

That is a very contradictory statement.

The only reason there is a HST and that it still works is because of the shuttle. It was launched and serviced by the shuttle. Even is Hubble was launched on a expendable launcher it would be completely useless and the project was abandoned. The only reason she still works is because a shuttle could service her and place that new mirror on her.

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21 minutes ago, hugix said:

That is a very contradictory statement.

The only reason there is a HST and that it still works is because of the shuttle. It was launched and serviced by the shuttle. Even is Hubble was launched on a expendable launcher it would be completely useless and the project was abandoned. The only reason she still works is because a shuttle could service her and place that new mirror on her.

It's true, add this to the (small) list of good things brought by the shuttle.

Anyway, I seriously doubt they will do this much to recover Hubble. Costs are too high (have to develop a complete reentry module from scratch), and chances of failures as well. And reviving the shuttle ? I don't think this will ever happen.

NASA will probably send up a tug to make sure it reenters safely and not crash on someone's head and that will be it.

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Falcon first stage can't survive a re-entry. Nor can second stage yet.

It would have to launch a custom descent vehicle for the Hubble. Nothing currently exists with anywhere close to the capacity, not since the Shuttle retired. It would be fraught with difficulty, especially considering Hubble isn't super-sturdy.

Hubble is in a different orbital inclination to the ISS. Bringing them together would require a prohibitive amount of delta-V. I suppose it *might* be possible with an ion drive.

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Cantab why not have them make a hybrid inflatable ablative capsule for Hubble space telescope just about everyone has covered a mk1-2 command pod with a the new inflatable heat shields why not do the same for Hubble with chutes and water stable landing.

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41 minutes ago, cantab said:

Falcon first stage can't survive a re-entry. Nor can second stage yet.

It would have to launch a custom descent vehicle for the Hubble. Nothing currently exists with anywhere close to the capacity, not since the Shuttle retired. It would be fraught with difficulty, especially considering Hubble isn't super-sturdy.

Hubble is in a different orbital inclination to the ISS. Bringing them together would require a prohibitive amount of delta-V. I suppose it *might* be possible with an ion drive.

Cannae, lol.

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8 hours ago, Buzz light fear said:

Cantab why not have them make a hybrid inflatable ablative capsule for Hubble space telescope just about everyone has covered a mk1-2 command pod with a the new inflatable heat shields why not do the same for Hubble with chutes and water stable landing.

Because inflatable heat shields don't exist. The closest is the HIAD, which isn't a heatshield, but a decelerator (like a big inflatable parachute that works in the upper atmosphere), and more to the point, doesn't work very well (yet?).

The only way to bring back Hubble with current technology would be to build a huge Orion/Dragon capsule, with a cargo bay, a manipulator arm and the biggest parachutes ever made by mankind. You think developing Orion was expensive ?

Edited by Nibb31

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Probably, a successfully rescued Hubble would consist of:
1) depleted or outspent components (electronics, mechanics);
2) one-way components ("once open, never close" or "brake the strut/decouple the cover, then expand")
3) mirrors.

Do you really need these mirrors?

Edited by kerbiloid

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3 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

Because inflatable heat shields don't exist. The closest is the HIAD, which isn't a heatshield, but a decelerator (like a big inflatable parachute that works in the upper atmosphere), and more to the point, doesn't work very well (yet?).

The only way to bring back Hubble with current technology would be to build a huge Orion/Dragon capsule, with a cargo bay, a manipulator arm and the biggest parachutes ever made by mankind. You think developing Orion was expensive ?

Doesn't exist, that excuse hasn't worked since the EMdrive took off. lol.

You don't need am arm. a tniy electric motor with a pulse drive, two mounts and a reel with 6 lb test. mount these two to two recess in the side of a ported cyclinder. position the space craft, open the doors,mhave a tiny robots drive by tiny iondrive go our pulling the line out (no tension), first they cut off the solar panels, and then joining themselves to two previously determined positions. reel the hubble into the bay, close the door. The next part is the fun part cause the hubble weighs major tonnage, you need to bring it to LEO and attach huge heat shield and parachutes, the best solution is to place it sideways on the shield insied a frame tha has parachutes. There is no particularly good place to land, somplace with alot of fresh snow like buffulo, new york in the winter. Or the the frame could have four diagonally mounted braking rockets. In any case you want to land on land. You could land in a sugar cane field, or on bamboo field.

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5 hours ago, Nibb31 said:

Because inflatable heat shields don't exist. The closest is the HIAD, which isn't a heatshield, but a decelerator (like a big inflatable parachute that works in the upper atmosphere), and more to the point, doesn't work very well (yet?).

The only way to bring back Hubble with current technology would be to build a huge Orion/Dragon capsule, with a cargo bay, a manipulator arm and the biggest parachutes ever made by mankind. You think developing Orion was expensive ?

And I said hybrid it is covered with ablative bricks on the inflatable surface to reduce heating also more than one chute could be used if you drop some unnecessary equipment lik the mirror and solar panels on decent those should be small enough to to burn up completely.

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2 hours ago, PB666 said:

Doesn't exist, that excuse hasn't worked since the EMdrive took off. lol.

You don't need am arm. a tniy electric motor with a pulse drive, two mounts and a reel with 6 lb test. mount these two to two recess in the side of a ported cyclinder. position the space craft, open the doors,mhave a tiny robots drive by tiny iondrive go our pulling the line out (no tension), first they cut off the solar panels, and then joining themselves to two previously determined positions. reel the hubble into the bay, close the door. The next part is the fun part cause the hubble weighs major tonnage, you need to bring it to LEO and attach huge heat shield and parachutes, the best solution is to place it sideways on the shield insied a frame tha has parachutes. There is no particularly good place to land, somplace with alot of fresh snow like buffulo, new york in the winter. Or the the frame could have four diagonally mounted braking rockets. In any case you want to land on land. You could land in a sugar cane field, or on bamboo field.

And how are ion-powered robots and a reeling line easier to develop than a robotic arm ?

It doesn't need to be reeled in anyway, it has an IDS docking adapter.

1 hour ago, Buzz light fear said:

And I said hybrid it is covered with ablative bricks on the inflatable surface to reduce heating also more than one chute could be used if you drop some unnecessary equipment lik the mirror and solar panels on decent those should be small enough to to burn up completely.

Again none of that exists. It would cost billions to develop for no good purpose.

Edited by Nibb31

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6 minutes ago, Nibb31 said:

And how are ion-powered robots and a reeling line easier to develop than a robotic arm ?

It doesn't need to be reeled in anyway, it has an IDS docking adapter.

Again none of that exists. It would cost billions to develop for no good purpose.

Docking port wont work inside a relanding equipment bay.

Of course its no good purpose, howver its a good exercise to plan how one might do it. The biggest problem is renentry, the HST was never designed to come back to earth.

if you wanted to have a museum, jus put a holographic image of the HST in orbit in the museum.

The space shuttle is probably the biggest thing we have returned to earth, the occasional payload. We have lost that ability, which is a bit of a shame, along with all the other unique capabilities lost by the shuttle. For what good reason in an economy the size of the US's IDK.

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1 minute ago, PB666 said:

Docking port wont work inside a relanding equipment bay.

Depends how you design your equipment bay. You could have a clamshell design that opens, docks, and closes. Ever seen James Bond ?

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1. Launch a tug.
2. Catch the Hubble.
3. Raise the orbit.
4. Wait 100 years until somebody will fly there on a space yacht and take it back to the Earth..

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