NASA announced on Tuesday that it will add a space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, according to NASA TV.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced the plans for a fifth servicing mission to Hubble during a meeting with agency employees at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Goddard is the agency center responsible for managing Hubble.
"We have conducted a detailed analysis of the performance and procedures necessary to carry out a successful Hubble repair mission over the course of the last three shuttle missions. What we have learned has convinced us that we are able to conduct a safe and effective servicing mission to Hubble," Griffin said.
"While there is an inherent risk in all spaceflight activities, the desire to preserve a truly international asset like the Hubble Space Telescope makes doing this mission the right course of action," he added.
The flight is tentatively targeted for launch during the spring to fall of 2008. Mission planners are working to determine the best location and vehicle in the manifest to support the needs of Hubble while minimizing impact to International Space Station assembly.
The final servicing shuttle flight to Hubble is a part of a mission to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013.
Griffin also announced the astronauts selected for the mission. Veteran astronaut Scott D. Altman will command the final space shuttle mission to Hubble. Navy Reserve Capt. Gregory C. Johnson will serve as pilot. Mission specialists include veteran spacewalkers John M. Grunsfeld and Michael J. Massimino and first- time space fliers Andrew J. Feustel, Michael T. Good and K. Megan McArthur.
"Hubble has been rewriting astronomy text books for more than 15 years, and all of us are looking forward to the new chapters that will be added with future discoveries and insights about our universe," said Mary Cleave, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate.
The Hubble servicing mission is an 11-day flight. Following launch, the shuttle will rendezvous with the telescope on the third day of the flight. Using the shuttle's mechanical arm, the telescope will be placed on a work platform in the cargo bay. Five separate space walks will be needed to accomplish all of the mission objectives.
"The Hubble mission will be an exciting mission for the shuttle team. The teams have used the experiences gained from Return to Flight and station assembly to craft a very workable Hubble servicing flight. The inspection and repair techniques, along with spacewalk planning from station assembly, were invaluable in showing this mission is feasible," said Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier.
"There are plenty of challenges ahead as the teams do the detailed planning and figure the best way to provide for a launch on need capability for the mission. There is no question that this highly motivated and dedicated flight control team will meet the challenge," Gerstenmaier said.
The Hubble Space Telescope is an international cooperative project between NASA and the European Space Agency.