back to article Hi there, Hubble, glad to hear you're doing okay

Astroboffins the world over drew a collective sigh of relief to hear that the Hubble Space Telescope has been formally returned to service. The “all clear” came on Friday, and over the weekend, NASA set the spacecraft back to work: “The observations were of the distant, star-forming galaxy DSF2237B-1-IR and were taken in …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    On Monday NASA warned that the Kepler space telescope, discoverer of hundreds of exoplanets. The problem is that the telescope is nearly out of fuel and there's no way to give the tanks a top up.

    Maybe it's time for satellites like this to include some sort of fueling port and then have a robot or manned capsule be able to refuel them? NASA builds them tough and they seem to exceed expectations as far as usable life, so provision for refueling probably ought to be part of the design.

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      It's been discussed here before and it's just not viable. It would cost so much to do a refuelling mission that you are actually better off just to go for a replacement. In the intervening timetech will have moved on so for your one space mission you can improved things a great deal by replacing the machine in orbit.

      Maybe one day we could lauch a tanker which would float round refuelling sats but in reality that probably not very feasible either.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Fuel would be something useful to throw up in launch tests. Space X could have taken something to go and refuel the Hubble instead of a car(!), assuming the refuelling craft wouldn't be overly expensive.

        A fuel port while maybe not viable may have been viable in the time between Hubble's launch and today. For anything launched today, refuelling might be more viable in 28 years.

        That assumes the fuel port wouldn't add too much cost, weight or complexity, of course.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          To refuel something you have to stop next to it. Stopping takes the same amount of fuel as speeding up. So Tesla's rocket would need to carry another rocket the same size to de-accelerate to match Keppler.

          But then you would need another half-dozen rockets bolted to the first rocket to lift the second rocket - that would be a big fsckign rocket.

    2. Stuart21551

      They'll drink to that, fer sure!

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        even in KSP you need the KAS mod for that too.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sigh, here we go again

      To let someone more elegant that I explain it: Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.

      It's far enough that launching a "fuel ship" would probably take a decade or more to get there (and longer to get back, so there goes a manned option). Any KSP pros out there able to put some numbers together to confirm or refute my ill-informed guess?

      Couple that with how complex orbital operations are (along with how counter intuitive they are) and its just not practical.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sigh, here we go again

        An alternative is to have a fuel depot in medium orbit with fuel from the Moon, Titan or wherever, and then tank up the space probes to the max before going to the operational position. Journeys to refuel a satellite is unlikely to be cost effective in the foreseeable future even without technological advances making the satellite obsolete.

  2. harmjschoonhoven

    Re: Kepler

    Forget a manned mission to Kepler. Its distance to Earth is most of the time larger than the distance to Mars in conjunction.

    BTW Kepler is now at over 270% of its intended lifetime.

    1. ghp

      Re: Kepler

      No need to be (wo)manned, just fueled.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Kepler

      "Kepler is now at over 270% of its intended lifetime"

      That's good, but Opportunity had a planned 90 sol lifespan, and made it to at least 5594 sols before it's recent shutdown, (that's sixty two times longer than it's original mission). There's still a good chance it'll recover and will keep on roving on.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Kepler

        reminds me of the spirit comic strip

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kepler

          Could be refueled by a TR-3 Black Manta.

  3. Steve Evans

    Big problem for Hubble is that since they grounded the Space shuttle they can't tow it back to a higher orbit any more.

    With its orbit being as low as it is, it is just catching the top of the atmosphere, so it does experience drag. It's not going to stay up for many more years before turning into a fireball.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Worst case it'll come down in ten years, best case is 2040 something.

      (source last two paragraphs)

    2. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Sorry, what? Hubble is in a decaying orbit that needs to be regularly pulled up out of the atmosphere?

      Is this intentional (and why) or is it in the wrong place?

      1. Andrew Newstead

        The telescope was designed to be serviceable and eventually retrievable by the Space Shuttle. That limited the altitude at which it was deployed to allow the shuttle to get to it.

        One of the last things that was done on the final shuttle servicing mission was to attach a docking collar to the telescope base which would allow a future visiting space craft to attach itself to the scope. What this craft would be doing was not explained in too much detail, except to state that a rocket engine on the craft could change the telescope's orbit or de-orbit it in a controlled manner (important as much of the mirror would make it through re-entry and it's very massive). It's not a great stretch to conceive of a "service module" that could take over the navigation and pointing functions of the telescope and be attached to it when we see the gyros and momentum wheels on the telescope starting to fail again. This would also maintain the orbit. When the module is used up then it could be replaced with a second unit.

  4. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    Amazing how observations in the visual spectrum trounces everything else in capturing the public's support

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      ... even though they're often false colour, multiple wavelength images that bear little relation to 'visual spectrum' images ...

      Has to be great news that, in the voice of the Blessed one, "Hubble's alive!"

      1. oddie

        I read that as "in the voice of Brian Blessed".

        For those who don't know who he is.. he is of course the man who narrated the voiceover to Quest for Glory 4: Shadows of Darkness.

        Or, you know, british national treasure:

    2. Craig 2

      So what you're saying is it's amazing how people like stuff they can actually see?

      We're not all Neo, we can't read the source code to the universe ;)

  5. aregross

    I thought the British National Treasure was Jeremy Clarkson?!?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      If Clarkson is a national treasure then that makes Hammond a national tarsier.

  6. arctic_haze Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    All the bbest, Hubble!

    My best wishes to the best telescope humanity is lucky to have.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: All the bbest, Hubble!

      >My best wishes to the best telescope humanity is lucky to have.

      Typical visible-chauvinist remark

  7. Yobgod Ababua

    Slightly more accurately...

    It was "turning it off and on again repeatedly whilst vigorously shaking it back and forth".

    Not dissimilar to the old "fix your stuck hard drive by whacking it with a mallet and spinning it on the floor" trick.

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