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Telescopes planted along Earth’s orbit?

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sftommy

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Are our space telescope technologies advanced to the point where we could plant telescopes along earth’s orbit independent of the earth’s movement? Is there enough advantage in a 2 AU distance between two mirrors to warrant such a step? Do we currently have spacecraft capable of servicing them? Appreciate everyone’s thoughts!
 
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edkyle99

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sftommy":9ab8vob9 said:
Are our space telescope technologies advanced to the point where we could plant telescopes along earth’s orbit independent of the earth’s movement? Is there enough advantage in a 2 AU distance between two mirrors to warrant such a step? Do we currently have spacecraft capable of servicing them? Appreciate everyone’s thoughts!
NASA's Kepler telescope was placed in an Earth-trailing heliocentric (solar) orbit. It takes Kepler a few days longer than the Earth to orbit the sun, so the telescope is gradually falling behind (moving away from) Earth and can be said to be independent of Earth's movement.

- Ed Kyle
 
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Astro_Robert

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As to the OP's other 2 questions:

Any advantage between 2 AU separation, yes assuming you want to try to build a virtual telescope.
Servicing such craft, no chance any time soon

In addition to Kepler, NASA is planning the LISA mission which will orbit three spacecraft to formation fly in solar orbit. These spacecraft will locate eachothers' positions using laser to try to detect gravity waves. Other vehicles (cluster, etc..) have previously done formation flying in Earth Orbit.

By some extension, it should be technically feasible to design some kind of 'observatory' composed of multiple spacecraft placed around or near Earth's orbit and to then use them like a gigantic telescope. However, technical feasible does not translate to fiscally feasible, and until LISA flies any such scheme would probably be regarded as high technical risk. The cost of building such an observatory would also be prohibitve for the near future.

However, if you are thinking of a really big extension to Very Long Baseline Astronomy (VLBA) and the like, some folks have proposed putting telescopes in Earth orbit or on the Moon in the not too distant future. That would be a nice increase in baseline size.
 
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sftommy

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It does seem that any such crafts would probably have to be disposable, unless we develop remote serviceabilities.

Lacking a heavy launch vehicle might be another issue, the Hubble weighs in at 24,500 lbs and is only in a LEO of 350 miles.

If such a dual telescope offered the ability to discern smaller or more distant objects (like earth-size planets) the current NASA environment on remote robotics might make this a palatable project.
 
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Gravity_Ray

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sftommy":1lp6hr7g said:
Are our space telescope technologies advanced to the point where we could plant telescopes along earth’s orbit independent of the earth’s movement? Is there enough advantage in a 2 AU distance between two mirrors to warrant such a step? Do we currently have spacecraft capable of servicing them? Appreciate everyone’s thoughts!
It’s a great idea for a VLBA type project to put two or more telescopes in space. The main problem will be technical in nature. If there is any kind of technical problem with one, you lose any gains you make by having 2 up there. I would say don’t just put them in space, or along Earth's orbit. This project is perfect for a Lagrange point. That way, the telescopes will have a very steady state location. Also to add a bit of fun to this project you can put a Bigelow type station there where astronomers and technicians can do 3 month visits ala South Pole station to be nearer to the actual project for possible technical support (i.e. software update and fixes, or space walks for minor or major repairs).
 
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MeteorWayne

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sftommy":2053b6po said:
It does seem that any such crafts would probably have to be disposable, unless we develop remote serviceabilities.

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All spacecraft other than the ISS are currently unservicable, so it's rather a moot point.
 
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MeteorWayne

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Along the same idea, the two STEREO spacecraft and SOHO provide nearly 360 degree coverage of the sun.
 
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sftommy

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Kepler is an instructive parallel. Seems to present the technologies as available now. Relatively cheap mission at $600 Million and of short duration, 3.5 years, so serviceability is moot. End of its mission should leave a catalog of targets we will want to peer harder at. Maybe a second James Webb telescope although I'm thinking more for local neighborhood planet hunting then beginning of universe smoke rings.
 
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