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Giant Next-Generation Space Telescopes Could Be Built Off Earth



 Some Assembly Required: Giant Next-Generation Space Telescopes Could Be Built Off Earth

The Hubble Space Telescope was visited by astronauts during five space shuttle missions between 1993 and 2009. Here, two spacewalking astronauts work on Hubble during the first

Credit: NASA

When it comes to telescopes, constantly building a bigger and better observatory at the cosmos both from Earth and from orbit. Engineers have already started a problem: These observatories may be too big to launch into space.

Both in terms of size and weight, the telescopes astronomers and engineers are already planning for the future. That's because the telescope's capabilities depend on its aperture, or the diameter of its main mirror. New "megarockets" like NASA's Space Launch System that is NASA's goal to launch in the 2030s, but if the missions have to sacrifice some scientific potential. [Giant Space Telescopes of the Future (Infographic)]

Rather than constrain the telescope's design to fit inside the payload ̵

1; NASA scientists are working to find new ways to get those hefty space telescopes into orbit

"Large telescopes give you a better telescopes. , "Nick Siegler, the chief technologist for the NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program, received a presentation at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle in January. That's why I think it's more important than ever before.

"Of course, 'large' is relative, but the challenge is moving forward," Siegler said. "You have large structures that are really tremendous." For example, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – currently scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket in 2021 – will fold up to the rocket's payload fairing.

JWST will be the largest space telescope ever launched, with its 6.5-meter (21.3 feet) mirror . The Ariane 5 That Will Launch JWST is a heavy-lift rocket that is used to launch satellites into Earth's orbit. BepiColombo mission to Mercury that launched last October. Although the JWST is not yet launched, NASA scientists are already working on proposals for its successor. (Spoiler alert: They're even bigger than JWST!)

 A chart compares the relative size of the Origins Space Telescope mission concept and existing space telescopes.

A chart compares to the origins of the telescopes.

Credit: NASA's GSFC

NASA engineers working on the blueprints for the Space Observatory (LUVOIR) and the Origins Space Telescope ( OST) have already been to the limitations of today's rockets. The 15-m (50 ft) version of the two telescopes that can launch on NASA's upcoming Space Launch System (SLS) and an 8-m (26 feet) version that can launch on today's smaller heavy lift lift. Those smaller versions are NASA's backup plans in the SLS will not be ready in time; the megarocket has already faced extensive delays and cost overruns

Instead of waiting for someone to build in the future, a team of NASA researchers are looking for the in-space assembly. That process would not be the only one of the "in-Space Assembled Telescope" (iSAT) study.

Figuring out how to build a telescope in space is only the beginning. To make in-space telescope assembly a reality, NASA will do the same thing. Those factors are dependence on the AAS meeting explained at the AAS meeting.

Sending astronauts to work on a space telescope is not a new concept; NASA's iconic Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990, has been astronauts five times between 1993 and 2009. Although the astronauts did not originally build Hubble.

NASA could send astronauts from the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. That suggested lunar space station would serve as a stepping stone for future crewed missions to Mars.

But some researcher, like Siegler, thinks that robots would be better for building things in space. "Astronauts are expensive," they said. "We think we can do this robotically." A robotic system for building an in-space telescope assembly, they came in.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on Space.com


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