Statement of Task
The committee will conduct an independent assessment of options for extending the life of the Hubble Space Telescope. The study will address the following tasks:
Assess the viability of a space shuttle servicing mission that will satisfy all recommendations from the CAIB, as well as ones identified by NASA’s own Return-to-Flight activities. In making this assessment, compare the risks of a space shuttle servicing mission to HST with the risks of a shuttle mission to the ISS and, where there are differences, describe the extent to which those differences are significant. Estimate to the extent possible the time and resources needed to overcome any unique technical or safety issues associated with HST servicing that are required to meet the CAIB recommendations, as well as those from the Stafford-Covey team.
Survey other available engineering options, including both on-orbit robotic intervention and optimization of ground operations, that could extend the HST lifetime.
Assess the response of the spacecraft to likely component failures and the resulting impact on servicing feasibility, lost science, and the ability to safely dispose of HST at the end of its service life.
Based upon the results of the tasks above, provide a benefit/risk assessment of whether extension of HST service life, via (a) a shuttle serving mission if one is deemed viable under task #1 and/or (b) a robotic servicing mission if one is deemed viable under task #2, is worth the risks involved. The assessment should include consideration of the scientific gains from different options considered and of the scientific value of HST in the larger context of ground and space-based astronomy and science more broadly. Special attention should be paid to the practical implications of the limited time available for meaningful intervention robotically or via the shuttle.
The committee is not expected to make either organizational or budgetary recommendations, but it may need to consider cost as a factor in weighing the relative benefits of alternative approaches.
The committee will investigate the possibility of providing an interim report to NASA that addresses a portion of the items in the task statement in advance of delivering a full final report if such an approach is deemed feasible and able to provide early, credible answers to the questions being considered.