Monday, June 04, 2012

NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy (updated)

The Washington Post is reporting that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) will give two outdated spy satellites to NASA.  The telescopes have the same size primary mirror as Hubble (2.4-meter) but have something it doesn't - a maneuverable secondary mirror. This capability will give them 100 times the resolving power of the HST.  While the spacecraft busses and mirrors are a windfall for NASA, they don't have cameras or other instruments, control centers, staff, or a mission.  The also need to be launched.  I just hope NASA will find the funding to utilized them.

Update: Since I first saw this a lot more info has emerged.  Here are some factoids from the Cosmic Log:
  1. NASA has had them is storage since last year, at a cost of between $75k and $100k/yr.
  2. The assemblies will shave ~$250M off a billion dollar budget, so using them isn't cheap..
  3. Thus, NASA is kicking around using just one of them due to budget issues with a 2024 target.
  4. It won't replace the James Webb Space Telescope but could be synergisticly.  It could replace (or become?) the proposed  the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).
  5. Overall, it is shorter than the HST, so it is being called 'Stubby Hubble.' Since it would be more powerful, it is also 'Super-Hubble.'