Hubble Space Telescope
Many of astronomy’s pioneering discoveries and most iconic space images have come from the Hubble Space Telescope. Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has revealed hidden secrets of our universe that continue to inspire and awe scientists the world over. With more than one million observations, Hubble has enabled more than 11,000 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built.
From the beginning, the Hubble Space Telescope was designed to allow astronauts to repair and upgrade it. This vision allowed NASA to repair critical equipment and update the sensitive instruments used to perform science observations with the latest technology during five servicing missions. Hubble has served as an ambassador for science by bridging the gap between astronomy and the public through spectacular images of the cosmos and dazzling space walks.
Ball Aerospace built seven science instruments for the Hubble Space Telescope, two star trackers, five major leave-behind equipment subsystems and more than eight custom tools to support astronauts during servicing missions. The five science instruments now operating on the telescope were all designed and built by Ball.
Perhaps the most famous Ball-built Hubble instrument is the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) that helped correct Hubble’s hazy vision. Ball designed and produced the complex COSTAR optics in only 28 months instead of the typical 48. When COSTAR and JPL’s WFPC-2 camera corrected Hubble’s vision after the first servicing mission in 1993, Ed Weiler, NASA’s chief Hubble astronomer, said the telescope was "fixed beyond our wildest expectations."
The seven Ball-built science instruments are:
- The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), installed during Servicing Mission 4 in 2009, updated Hubble’s visible and ultraviolet light imagers for higher performance. No longer needed, COSTAR was removed during this last servicing mission.
- The Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), installed during Servicing Mission 3 in 2002 doubled Hubble’s field of view with sharper image quality, and more sensitive detectors.
- Ball’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) were installed during Servicing Mission 2. These instruments enabled infrared imaging of distant galaxies and the search for black holes. Ball’s Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS) was removed after seven successful years of operation.
- COSTAR was installed during Servicing Mission 1 in 1993 along with JPL’s WFPC-2 to correct Hubble’s hazy vision.
- GHRS, launched on Hubble in 1990, was designed to detect ultraviolet light, allowing the detailed study of stars, galaxies and planets.
Each Ball instrument installed on Hubble incorporated its own corrective optics and used leading edge technologies designed to deliver the highest science return.
Deep Instrument Expertise
Ball Aerospace has been involved with Hubble since the late 70’s when we were selected to build one of the original science instruments. At the time COSTAR was designed and built in the early 1990s, Ball had built more than 100 science instruments for NASA programs over a 30-year time span. Ball also had successfully completed technically challenging projects, some on extremely tight schedules.