The Hubble Space Telescope will switch to the backup memory module after the instrument computer is shut down • The Register


NASA computer scientists are trying to fix the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer after hardware freezes due to what is believed to be a degraded memory module.

“The payload computer has four memory modules in total and only requires one,” a NASA spokesperson explained to El Reg.

“You can think of it as a memory chip card on a laptop that can be replaced if something goes wrong. The team is currently working to swap out the memory module which appears to have a problem. This has been done a number of times during pre-launch hardware testing and the operating procedures for doing this are in place. The rest of Hubble is currently operating normally.

The rugged telescope has temporarily halted all science operations and has been in safe mode since June 13, the space agency mentionned Wednesday.

Ground control said Hubble’s main computer did not receive a life-sustaining handshake signal from the payload computer, which controls the on-board instruments. Without this signal, the spacecraft’s main computer automatically put all of the payload computer’s instruments into safe mode as a precaution. The NASA team attempted to restart the payload system on Monday, although the main computer again shut down the instruments. After studying the diagnostic data, they believe that the problem lies with a bad memory module exposed to high levels of radiation, which causes the payload computer to shut down and communication with it to a halt. the main computer.

The plan is to get the telescope back up and running by switching to a backup memory module in the payload computer and leaving that system on for a day. If the payload and the main computers can communicate again as expected, the instruments will be turned back on, they should stay on, and so it can resume its mission. Degraded memory modules are easy to bypass with aftermarket NASA components installed in the telescope before launch.

Eye in the sky

Hubble has been in business for over three decades and tears itself away from the cosmic wonders of the distant universe. Its payload computer is part of a system, dubbed NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1), built in the 1980s.

The machine was replaced in 2009 during a maintenance mission in which four astronauts also installed new batteries, gyroscopes and sensors to keep Hubble running. In March of this year, an unexpected error also sent the telescope into safe mode. NASA doesn’t expect to return Hubble to service anytime soon.

The space agency is expected to launch its much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope later this year. JWST infrared views, compared to Hubble’s optical and ultraviolet captures, and the two together could be a powerful tool, we’re told.

“The Webb Space Telescope will exceed its infrared capabilities once it launches at the end of this year,” a NASA spokesperson said.

“However, no other current or planned NASA general observation mission covers ultraviolet wavelengths. Therefore, astronomers hope Hubble will work alongside the Webb Space Telescope so that the full spectrum of data can be collected. on astronomical objects and phenomena. This gives them a more complete scientific understanding. ” ®

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