I have a distinct feeling that there's some apparent no-go on the question in the title, but currently can't put my finger on it;

For the lifting mass to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), let's assume that SLS (Space Launch System) Block 1 is completed (crew and cargo) and for payload size that the missions could use ESA's ATV-derived Orion Service Module. Obviously, Orion Crew Module would be used with the maximum crew size of four, where the HST-STS missions had a crew of seven. Let's say that we need to launch at least as numerous crew as the number of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) astronauts during each HST-STS mission. All other mission parameters would stay identical to the "4½" (OK, 5) Hubble Space Shuttle servicing missions (STS-61, STS-82, STS-103 + STS-109, STS-125).

So could Orion eventually pull something like this off, even if multiple launches are used for each individual mission?

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    $\begingroup$ It would probably be cheaper to send up a new HST now and then instead of developing and deploying Orion just for HSMs. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


Without arm and cargo bay and with only one EVA because the Orion has no airlock, the cabin can be refilled with air once, there would be some serious limitations. Orion could maybe be extended with an extra module for such a mission. Orion is not really a complete spaceship like the shuttle was, it is an exploration vehicle component which needs a larger system. In order to be useful in the long run it will need complementary modules for lunar landing, deep space habitation and why not satellite handling equipment.

Orion is not made for LEO. A future Dragon or CST-100 would be more suitable for servicing a satellite in LEO, if complemented with extra equipment. Not more capable but at least cheaper. Orion could possibly service telescopes at Lagrange points, where Gaia is today and where James Webb will be sent. Those telescopes have however not been designed to be upgradable or serviced. The advantage of Orion is that it can reach the Moon-Earth and (barely) Sun-Earth Lagrange points 1 and 2. If it will service satellites at all, it will happen there.

  • $\begingroup$ Good point re the airlock. As regards the overall cost effectiveness it is interesting to note that there have been no servicing missions carried out via the soyuz/shenzhou vehicles despite having an airlock and some cargo capacity. It would be interesting to understand if designed-for-service missions had ever been considered by the Soviet Union/Russia/PRC. I can't help but wonder if the nominally lower launch cost for Soyuz vs Orion would be nullified by a corresponding lower cost of the target mission. $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Puffin Maybe the fast technological evolution makes the technical lifetime much shorter than the economic lifetime. A new telescope would be so much better than repairing the last one. Maybe HST upgrade missions were performed because they were a (militarily) interesting experiment forthe robotic service missions today, like X37. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ I think that's a good point re. the economic lifetime. I have little insight into the military interest in HST servicing. Looking back, with the motive for shuttle programme to have been predicated on reduced launch cost, the implication for satellite cost could have gone two ways a) satellites become cheaper because they are more easily replaced or b) its still justified to build extremely expensive satellites because they can be repaired! $\endgroup$
    – Puffin
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 22:08

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