NASA completes tests to identify problem with Hubble Space Telescope computer
NASA said on Friday it had performed additional diagnostic tests in an attempt to identify an issue with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) payload computer.
The announcement follows further testing Wednesday and Thursday and after the spacecraft’s payload computer “shut down” on June 13 and stopped collecting scientific data.
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In a press release, the agency noted that the HST – named after pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble – and its scientific instruments remain “healthy and are currently in a safe configuration.”
The telescope has two payload computers, one of which is at the rear, and they are located on the Science Instrument and Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit.
The computers consist of a central processing module (CPM), a standard interface (STINT), a communication bus and an active memory module, although there are three additional backup modules.
The tests on June 23 and 24 involved turning on the backup computer for the first time in space and scientists found that extensive testing of the hardware parts of the two payload computers resulted in the same error and that ” Write or read memory commands have failed.
Now the agency has reportedly turned its attention to other hardware, including the Scientific Data Trainer / Control Unit (CU / SDF) on the SI C&DH unit.
According to the update, the CU formats and sends commands and data to “specific destinations” that include science instruments and the SDF formats science data from science instruments to relay them to Earth.
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The power regulator is also a potential culprit, and NASA said the team will continue to assess the SI C&DH unit’s hardware over the next week.
“If the team determines that the CU / SDF or the power regulator is the probable cause, they will recommend switching to the CU / SDF backup module and the backup power regulator,” he said.
This is not the first time this year that the HST has encountered operational problems.
In March, the telescope “went into safe mode due to an onboard software error.” The problem was resolved days later and science operations quickly resumed – although the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) instrument was up and running turned out to be a little more difficult.
The HST was deployed by Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990 and has been observing the universe for over 31 years.
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The telescope observation skills have “developed enormously” as new advanced scientific instruments were added during five astronaut maintenance missions.
The HST has made over 1.4 million observations in its lifetime – contributing to some of the cosmos’ most important discoveries – and has plunged back into the universe’s past at places over 13.4 miles away billion light years from Earth.