Robert W. Smith compiled the Space Telescope Collection while writing his book The Space Telescope: A Study of NASA, Science, Technology and Politics. The book, published in 1989, was one of the main goals of the Space Telescope History Project (STHP). STHP was the result of the efforts of historians from the Johns Hopkins University and the National Air and Space Museum. The project was partially funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation and in the 1980s it was housed in STScI on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Campus.
The purpose of the project was to provide a history of the Space Telescope Project from its origins to the time when the telescope was placed in orbit. The project also developed a large body of historical resource files and oral history tapes. The oral histories and many of the files are housed at the National Air and Space Museum. The Space Telescope Collection is a portion of these working resource files.
The Hubble Space Telescope was the product of collaboration between NASA and the US government, private industry, and the academic world. Unlike telescopes on earth, which are less effective due to the light from civilizations, the Space Telescope allows astronomers to gather very accurate and detailed data. A telescope of this type was needed by astronomers, physicists and space science researchers. However, with so many diverse organizations contributing to the telescope's development, a central location became necessary to coordinate and manage the overall project. For this reason, STScI was established in 1981. The final location, the Steven Muller Building of the Johns Hopkins University, was selected after a series of proposals and presentations to AURA, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. The AURA consortium was responsible for running STScI.
The Space Telescope Science Institute, previously housed in the Johns Hopkins University's Rowland Hall, moved into its new location in 1982. The design and construction of the Space Telescope and its components continued under its direction throughout the 1980s. In April, 1990, the completed Hubble Space Telescope was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, and put into orbit.