Monday, September 29, 2008

Hubble Hiccups

NASA announced today that the Hubble Space Telescope has suffered a system failure in the computer which formats data and controls data transmissions from Hubble to the ground. Fixing this problem will delay the launch of the last Hubble servicing mission for the time being.

Here is NASA's release on what happened:
The malfunctioning system is Hubble's Control Unit/Science Data Formatter - Side A. Shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27, the telescope's spacecraft computer issued commands to safe the payload computer and science instruments when errors were detected within the Science Data Formatter. An attempt to reset the formatter and obtain a dump of the payload computer's memory was unsuccessful. 

Additional testing demonstrates Side A no longer supports the transfer of science data to the ground. A transition to the redundant Side B should restore full functionality to the science instruments and operations.

The transition to Side B operations is complex. It requires that five other modules used in managing data also be switched to their B-side systems. The B-sides of these modules last were activated during ground tests in the late 1980's and/or early 1990, prior to launch. The Hubble operations team has begun work on the Side B transition and believes it will be ready to reconfigure Hubble later this week. The transition will happen after the team completes a readiness review.

Hubble could return to science operations in the immediate future if the reconfiguration is successful. Even so, the agency is investigating the possibility of flying a back-up replacement system, which could be installed during the servicing mission.
Hopefully, they will be able to get Hubble back up as soon as possible so that the planned upgrade can be launched. Hubble has been invaluable to nearly every area of research in astronomy, astrophysics, and planetary science. Here's to wishing a speedy recovery to one of the most important individual scientific instruments in human history.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I agree completely. Here's hoping everything works out smoothly. If nothing else, Hubble will have earned its legacy, not only by the incredible store of scientific data it obtained, but by how much it has inspired a whole new generation of people to get excited about astronomy.


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