The National Reconnaissance Office — an intelligence agency that patrols the skies to protect American interests — recently announced that it would give NASA two Hubble-class telescopes it had sitting retired in Rochester, NY. As gracious a gift as this may be, NASA says that it will not accept the telescopes unless Congress allocates the funding necessary to convert one of them from an espionage machine into a dark-energy detecting instrument of science.
Unsurprisingly, details are sparse about what these telescopes were previously used for, but the most likely scenario is that these telescopes have long been surpassed by better technology. That doesn't mean these telescopes aren't highly advanced imaging instruments — they not only match the abilities of NASA's Hubble telescope, but their double 7.9-foot articulating mirrors actually improve on the Hubble's field of vision by a factor of 100. Neither of the telescopes can be launched as-is — NASA expects that it will take until 2024 before they can be retrofitted with the instruments needed to turn them into "Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescopes." NASA is only seeking funding for one of the telescopes, however, and if Congress gives NASA its approval, it will contract a private company to take one of the telescopes into orbit where it will assist in various dark-energy experiments.