Monday, 25 April 2016

A stainless steel blanket to help shield the Hubble space telescope

On 24 April 1990, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope was sent into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Now it is celebrating its 26th anniversary. As in the last years Hubble spent a modest portion of its observing time to observe a special chosen object. This year, Hubble re-observed an object, it already captured over 15 years ago: NGC 7635, better known as the Bubble Nebula (picture shown).

Astronauts noticed damage to Hubble’s protective multilayer insulation during the second and third Hubble Servicing Missions. During SM4, astronauts installed stainless steel sheets on Hubble’s exterior to provide additional thermal protection for some of the equipment bays. This layer is particularly important because it shields the instruments from the often rapid and harsh temperature changes that occur as Hubble orbits the Earth.

The New Outer Blanket Layer, or NOBL, protects Hubble’s external blankets. They prevent further degradation of the insulation and maintain normal operating temperatures for Hubble’s electronic equipment. Each NOBL has been tested to ensure that it can withstand exposure to: charged particles, X-rays, ultraviolet radiation, and thermal cycling, for at least 10 years. The covers are made of specially coated stainless steel foil trimmed to fit specific equipment bay doors.

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