The U.S. Space Force wants to bring a venerable NASA space telescope out of retirement.
An early-stage study seeks to resurrect the Spitzer Space Telescope, which was shut off in 2020 after 17 years of research exploring heat signatures of the universe. The Space Force awarded startup Rhea Space Activity $250,000 to explore the idea, in partnership with several astronomical heavyweights.
"This would be the most complex robotic mission ever performed by humanity," astrophysicist Shawn Usman, Rhea's CEO, said of the proposal in a company statement on May 10.
Given that Spitzer is two astronomical units (sun-Earth distances) from our planet, Usman said the work would be even more complex than the five space shuttle missions that serviced the Hubble Space Telescope between 1993 and 2009. (Hubble is still active, and NASA is considering potentially servicing it again with new tech.)
The Space Force's innovation arm, SpaceWERX, is managing the Small Business Technology Transfer Phase 1 contract for the proposed Spitzer Resurrector mission. Rhea's partners on the project are the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Blue Sun Enterprises and Lockheed Martin.