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Hubble Space Telescope Mission to Our Solar System Hubble Space Telescope Mission to Beyond Our Solar System

Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Space shuttle Discovery (STS-31)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, Fla., USA
Spacecraft Mass: 11,110 kg
Spacecraft Instruments:
1) ACS (Advanced Camera for Surveys)
2) COSTAR (Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement)
3) COS (Cosmic Origins Spectrograph)
4) NICMOS (Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer)
5) STIS (Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph)
6) Wide Field Planetary Camera 3 (WFPC3)
7) Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS)
Spacecraft Dimensions: 13.2 m
Spacecraft Power: Two 25-foot solar panels
Total Cost: At Launch: $1.5 billion
NASA Hubble Homepage,


Launched in April of 1990 and poised for many more years of trailblazing science ranging from our own solar system to the edge of the observable universe, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is fulfilling the hopes astronomers have long held for a large, optically superb telescope orbiting above the Earth's distorting atmosphere and providing uniquely clear and deep views of the cosmos.

The only one of NASA's four "Great Observatories" (Hubble, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope) that was serviceable by Space Shuttle astronauts, Hubble has seen its capabilities grow immensely in its sixteen historic years of operation. This has been the direct result of the installation of new, cutting-edge scientific instruments and more powerful engineering components. Replacement of aging or failed parts has been an important part of servicing and has been responsible for the telescope's longevity.

All of the Great Observatories have a particular range of light, or electromagnetic radiation, to which they are designed and are sensitive. Hubble's domain extends from the ultraviolet, through the visible (to which our eyes are sensitive), and to the near-infrared. In terms of the wavelength of light, Hubble's coverage ranges from 1,200 Angstroms in the ultraviolet (1 Angstrom = 1 hundred-millionth of a centimeter) to 2.4 microns (24,000 Angstroms) in the near-infrared. Hubble's UV-to-near-IR spectral range is a key piece of "astronomical real estate" - a dominant range of wavelengths emitted by stars and galaxies - and Hubble takes advantage of this access with both imaging and spectroscopy.

Compared to ground-based telescopes, Hubble is not particularly large. With a primary mirror diameter of 2.4 meters (94.5 inches), Hubble would at most be considered a medium-size telescope on the ground. However, the combination of its precision optics, location above the atmosphere, state-of-the-art instrumentation, and unprecedented pointing stability and control, allows Hubble to more than make up for its lack of size. The most detailed look at the farthest known galaxies in the Universe has been obtained by imaging from the Hubble Space Telescope. Spectroscopically, Hubble has detected several atomic constituents in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system, an enormously difficult measurement and a first in this critical and growing field whose ultimate aim is to look for places elsewhere in the Universe where the conditions for life exist.


Key Dates
24 Apr 1990:  Launch
25 Apr 1990:  Deployment by Space Shuttle Discovery
Status: Extended Mission in Progress
Fast Facts
Hubble Facts Hubble is about the size of a large school bus - 13.2 meters (43.5 feet).

It weighs 11,110 kg (24,500 pounds) - as much as two full-grown elephants.

Hubble is the world's first space-based optical telescope.

In an average orbit Hubble uses 3,000 watts of energy - roughly the same as 30 household light bulbs.

Hubble is the world's first space-based optical telescope.

It is named for American astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953). Dr. Hubble confirmed an "expanding" universe, which provided the foundation for the Big Bang theory.

Hubble can't obvserve the Sun or Mercury, which is too close to the Sun.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
John M. Grunsfeld John M. Grunsfeld
John led the team that successfully serviced and upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. Read More...
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Last Updated: 6 May 2013