Soft Capture Mechanism
When the Hubble Space Telescope reaches the end of its life, NASA will need to de-orbit it safely using a next-generation space transportation vehicle. Originally planned for Earth return on the Shuttle, Hubble’s scientific life will now extend beyond the planned retirement date of the Shuttle in 2011.
As part of Servicing Mission 4, engineers have developed the Soft Capture and Rendezvous System, or SCRS, which will enable the future rendezvous, capture, and safe disposal of Hubble by either a crewed or robotic mission. The SCRS greatly increases the current Shuttle capture interfaces on Hubble, therefore significantly reducing the rendezvous and capture design complexities associated with the disposal mission.
As this was the last planned servicing mission to Hubble, the Soft Capture Mechanism (SCM) is a specially designed device that, when attached to the back Hubble bulkhead will enable and assist in the safe de-orbit of the Hubble Space Telescope at the end of its useful life. This circular mechanism has structures and targets that will allow a future vehicle to capture and guide the telescope into a safe controlled re-entry.
Fact Sheet (PDF file)