"What we’ve proposed to NASA are options."

Falling Slowly

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is slowly falling to its death — but now, a couple of startups have a solution that may just be crazy enough to work.

As Gizmodo reports, the Tokyo-based Astroscale startup and California's Momentus Space have drafted a joint plan to save Hubble, which has been slowly sinking further into low-Earth orbit since it was first launched 33 years ago.

At the end of 2022, NASA issued a call for proposals from the commercial sector to help Hubble. Although SpaceX, naturally, is working with NASA on its own "feasibility study" to get the space telescope back into flying shape, Momentus and Astroscale's bold new proposal is very intriguing as well.

The plan goes a little something like this: a non-crewed rocket would launch a water-propelled "space tug" thruster into low-Earth orbit, which would then drag the Hubble up by some 31 miles. Then, after undocking, it'd remove any space junk that could mess with the telescope's new orbit.

Joint Feature

This collab, Gizmodo notes, is a big deal given that Momentus already has a space tug craft in the works and, earlier this week, announced its water-propelled system, which a spokesperson confirmed to the online news site would be used for the proposed Hubble mission should NASA choose to select the joint project.

Astroscale comes in at the latter end of the proposal with its specialized space debris capture technique, which earlier this month had a nearly-successful orbital test that was unfortunately foiled at the last minute due to some weird anomalies, the Japanese company conceded in a press release.

As the Gizmodo report notes, the currently untested and unproven nature of the startups' uncrewed and water-powered plan may well give NASA pause, especially considering that SpaceX has a substantial track record of pulling off tasks for the agency.

But the companies' plan's novelty may, per a statement from the president of Astroscale's American operation, be the key selling point.

"What we’ve proposed to NASA are options," Ron Lopez, the president and managing director of Astroscale, said in the statement. "Options that were not available during the five previous crewed servicing missions."

These options, we've gotta admit, seem pretty cool — if only NASA will give these startups the money for it.

More on experimental NASA: NASA Tests Snake Robot Designed to Look for Alien Life on Icy Moons

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