Hubble returns to normal operations after switch to backup computer

Science

SpaceNews 17 July, 2021 - 11:48am 57 views

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope returned to science operations July 17 after a hiatus of more than a month as controllers successfully switched the orbiting observatory to a backup payload computer.

NASA said the instruments of the 31-year-old telescope are now operational nearly five weeks after a payload computer, which commands those instruments, malfunctioned. Those instruments will resume normal science observations after completing calibrations.

After weeks of investigation, engineers concluded that the most likely cause of the payload computer problem was a malfunction of a power control unit, which supplies voltage to the hardware in the computer. With no ability to reset the power control unit from the ground, engineers decided to switch to the backup Science Instrument Command and Data Handling hardware, which has its own power control unit.

That transition to the backup hardware started July 15 and, by July 16, NASA reported success in turning on the backup computer system. By July 17, controllers had restored the science instruments from the safe modes they had been in since the payload computer malfunctioned June 13.

“I’m proud of the Hubble team, from current members to Hubble alumni who stepped in to lend their support and expertise,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a July 17 statement about the recovery of Hubble. “Thanks to their dedication and thoughtful work, Hubble will continue to build on its 31-year legacy, broadening our horizons with its view of the universe.”

The weeks-long effort to restore Hubble to normal operations, one of the longest outages of the telescope in recent years, heightened concerns about the telescope’s future, particularly since the telescope’s final servicing mission was more than a decade ago, in 2009.

NASA officials said they were taking a cautious approach to restoring Hubble during this latest malfunction in order to keep a bad situation from getting worse. “I have given the Hubble team very clear direction that returning Hubble safely to service and not unintentionally doing any harm to the system is the highest priority, not speed,” Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said at a June 29 meeting. “Although we’re all impatient to have Hubble back taking science, the highest priority is to be very careful and deliberate and not rush.”

He said at the time that cautious approach included two layers of review of all the procedures being developed to correct the problem. NASA also used a “high-fidelity simulator” to test those procedures before uplinking them to the telescope.

Despite the recent problems, astronomers remain optimistic that Hubble will continue to operate well into the decade. At a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in early June, before this latest issue, officials with the Space Telescope Science Institute said they were working on initiatives to extend the life of the telescope and its instruments to as late as 2030.

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NASA Returns Hubble Space Telescope to Science Operations

HubbleSite 18 July, 2021 - 07:00pm

NASA has returned the science instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope to operational status, and the collection of science data will now resume. This will be the first science data collected since the payload computer experienced a problem on June 13, which placed the instruments in a safe configuration and suspended science operations.

“Hubble is an icon, giving us incredible insight into the cosmos over the past three decades," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. "I'm proud of the Hubble team, from current members to Hubble alumni who stepped in to lend their support and expertise. Thanks to their dedication and thoughtful work, Hubble will continue to build on its 31-year legacy, broadening our horizons with its view of the universe."

The first observation is scheduled for Saturday afternoon after some instrument calibrations are completed. Most observations missed while science operations were suspended will be rescheduled for a later date.

The Hubble team has been investigating the cause of the payload computer problem since it first occurred. On July 15, the team switched the spacecraft to backup hardware.

NASA anticipates that Hubble will last for many more years and will continue making groundbreaking observations, working in tandem with other space observatories including the James Webb Space Telescope to further our knowledge of the cosmos.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for over 31 years. It has taken over 1.5 million observations of the universe, and over 18,000 scientific papers have been published with its data. It has contributed to some of the most significant discoveries of our cosmos, including the accelerating expansion of the universe, the evolution of galaxies over time, and the first atmospheric studies of planets beyond our solar system. Read more about some of Hubble's greatest scientific discoveries.

NASA has successfully switched to backup hardware on the Hubble Space Telescope, including powering on the backup payload computer, on July 15. The switch was performed to compensate for a problem with the original payload computer that occurred on June 13 when the computer halted, suspending science data collection.

The switch included bringing online the backup Power Control Unit (PCU) and the backup Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) on the other side of the Science Instrument and Command & Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. The PCU distributes power to the SI C&DH components, and the CU/SDF sends and formats commands and data. In addition, other pieces of hardware onboard Hubble were switched to their alternate interfaces to connect to this backup side of the SI C&DH. Once these steps were completed, the backup payload computer on this same unit was turned on and loaded with flight software and brought up to normal operations mode. 

The Hubble team is now monitoring the hardware to ensure that everything is working properly. The team has also started the process for recovering the science instruments out of their safe mode configuration. This activity is expected to take more than a day as the team runs various procedures and ensures the instruments are at stable temperatures. The team will then conduct some initial calibration of the instruments before resuming normal science operations.

Today, NASA began a switch to backup spacecraft hardware on Hubble in response to an ongoing problem with its payload computer. This will be a multi-day event. If successful, the next step will be for science instruments to be brought back into operation.

NASA has identified the possible cause of the payload computer problem that suspended Hubble Space Telescope science operations on June 13. The telescope itself and science instruments remain healthy and in a safe configuration.

The payload computer resides in the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. It controls, coordinates, and monitors Hubble’s science instruments. When the payload computer halted, Hubble’s science instruments were automatically placed into a safe configuration. A series of multi-day tests, which included attempts to restart and reconfigure the computer and the backup computer, were not successful, but the information gathered from those activities has led the Hubble team to determine that the possible cause of the problem is in the Power Control Unit (PCU).

The PCU also resides on the SI C&DH unit. It ensures a steady voltage supply to the payload computer’s hardware. The PCU contains a power regulator that provides a constant five volts of electricity to the payload computer and its memory. A secondary protection circuit senses the voltage levels leaving the power regulator. If the voltage falls below or exceeds allowable levels, this secondary circuit tells the payload computer that it should cease operations. The team’s analysis suggests that either the voltage level from the regulator is outside of acceptable levels (thereby tripping the secondary protection circuit), or the secondary protection circuit has degraded over time and is stuck in this inhibit state.

Because no ground commands were able to reset the PCU, the Hubble team will be switching over to the backup side of the SI C&DH unit that contains the backup PCU. All testing of procedures for the switch and associated reviews have been completed, and NASA management has given approval to proceed. The switch will begin Thursday, July 15, and, if successful, it will take several days to completely return the observatory to normal science operations.

The team performed a similar switch in 2008, which allowed Hubble to continue normal science operations after a Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) module, another part of the SI C&DH, failed. A servicing mission in 2009 then replaced the entire SI C&DH unit, including the faulty CU/SDF module, with the SI C&DH unit currently in use.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for over 31 years. It has taken over 1.5 million observations of the universe, and over 18,000 scientific papers have been published with its data. It has contributed to some of the most significant discoveries of our cosmos, including the accelerating expansion of the universe, the evolution of galaxies over time, and the first atmospheric studies of planets beyond our solar system. Read more about some of Hubble’s greatest scientific discoveries.

NASA completed a formal review to assess all operations related to Hubble’s possible switch to backup hardware, which may occur later this week. Investigation into the cause of the payload computer issue is ongoing.

NASA completed a review to assess all factors and minimize risks related to Hubble’s possible switch to backup hardware, which may occur later this week. Investigation into the cause of the payload computer issue is ongoing.

NASA successfully completed a test of procedures that would be used to switch to backup hardware on Hubble in response to the payload computer problem. This switch could occur next week after further preparations and reviews.

A multi-day test of procedures that would be used to turn on backup hardware on the Hubble Space Telescope began today. Meanwhile, NASA continues to investigate the cause of the payload computer issue that began on June 13.

NASA completed preparations to test procedures in the coming week that would be used to turn on Hubble backup hardware as a possible response to a payload computer issue. Investigation is ongoing into the cause of the problem.

NASA is taking additional steps to investigate the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer issue that began on June 13, suspending science observations. In parallel with the investigation, NASA is preparing and testing procedures to turn on backup hardware onboard the spacecraft. The telescope itself and science instruments remain healthy and in a safe configuration.

The source of the computer problem lies in the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit, where the payload computer resides. A few hardware pieces on the SI C&DH could be the culprit(s).

The team is currently scrutinizing the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF), which sends and formats commands and data. They are also looking at a power regulator within the Power Control Unit, which is designed to ensure a steady voltage supply to the payload computer’s hardware. If one of these systems is determined to be the likely cause, the team must complete a more complicated operations procedure to switch to the backup units. This procedure would be more complex and riskier than those the team executed last week, which involved switching to the backup payload computer hardware and memory modules. To switch to the backup CU/SDF or power regulator, several other hardware boxes on the spacecraft must also be switched due to the way they are connected to the SI C&DH unit.

Over the next week or so, the team will review and update all of the operations procedures, commands and other related items necessary to perform the switch to backup hardware. They will then test their execution against a high-fidelity simulator.

The team performed a similar switch in 2008, which allowed Hubble to continue normal science operations after a CU/SDF module failed. A servicing mission in 2009 then replaced the entire SI C&DH unit, including the faulty CU/SDF module, with the SI C&DH unit currently in use.

Since that servicing mission, Hubble has taken over 600,000 additional observations to exceed 1.5 million during its lifetime. Those observations continue to change our understanding of the universe.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for over 31 years. It has contributed to some of the most significant discoveries of our cosmos, including the accelerating expansion of the universe, the evolution of galaxies over time, and the first atmospheric studies of planets beyond our solar system. Read more about some of Hubble’s greatest scientific discoveries.

NASA is continuing to diagnose a problem with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope after completing another set of tests on June 23 and 24. The payload computer halted on June 13 and the spacecraft stopped collecting science data. The telescope itself and its science instruments remain in good health and are currently in a safe configuration.

The spacecraft has two payload computers, one of which serves as a backup, that are located on the Science Instrument and Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. There are various pieces of hardware which make up both payload computers, including but not limited to:

* Central Processing Module (CPM), which processes the commands that coordinate and control the science instruments

* Standard Interface (STINT), which bridges communications between the computer’s CPM and other components

* communications bus, which contains lines that pass signals and data between hardware

* and one active memory module, which stores operational commands to the instruments. There are three additional modules which serve as backups.

Additional tests performed on June 23 and 24 included turning on the backup computer for the first time in space. The tests showed that numerous combinations of these hardware pieces from both the primary and backup payload computer all experienced the same error — commands to write into or read from memory were not successful.

Since it is highly unlikely that all individual hardware elements have a problem, the team is now looking at other hardware as the possible culprit, including the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF), another module on the SI C&DH. The CU formats and sends commands and data to specific destinations, including the science instruments. The SDF formats the science data from the science instruments for transmission to the ground. The team is also looking at the power regulator to see if possibly the voltages being supplied to hardware are not what they should be. A power regulator ensures a steady constant voltage supply. If the voltage is out of limits, it could cause the problems observed.

Over the next week, the team will continue to assess hardware on the SI C&DH unit to identify if something else may be causing the problem. If the team determines the CU/SDF or the power regulator is the likely cause, they will recommend switching to the backup CU/SDF module and the backup power regulator.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for over 31 years. It has contributed to some of the most significant discoveries of our cosmos, including the accelerating expansion of the universe, the evolution of galaxies over time, and the first atmospheric studies of planets beyond our solar system. Read more about some of Hubble’s key scientific contributions

NASA continues to work to resolve a problem with the Hubble Space Telescope payload computer that halted on June 13. After performing tests on several of the computer’s memory modules, the results indicate that a different piece of computer hardware may have caused the problem, with the memory errors being only a symptom. The operations team is investigating whether the Standard Interface (STINT) hardware, which bridges communications between the computer’s Central Processing Module (CPM) and other components, or the CPM itself is responsible for the issue. The team is currently designing tests that will be run in the next few days to attempt to further isolate the problem and identify a potential solution. 

This step is important for determining what hardware is still working properly for future reference. If the problem with the payload computer can’t be fixed, the operations team will be prepared to switch to the STINT and CPM hardware onboard the backup payload computer. The team has conducted ground tests and operations procedure reviews to verify all the commanding required to perform that switch on the spacecraft.

If the backup payload computer’s CPM and STINT hardware is turned on, several days will be required to assess the computer performance and restore normal science operations. The backup computer has not been powered on since its installation in 2009; however, it was thoroughly tested on the ground prior to installation on the spacecraft.

The payload computer is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s that is located on the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. After 18 years on orbit, the original SI C&DH experienced a failure in 2008 that delayed the final servicing mission to Hubble while a replacement was prepared for flight. In May 2009, STS-125 was launched and the astronauts installed the existing unit. The replacement contains original hardware from the 1980s with four independent 64K memory modules of Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) memory. Only one memory module is used operationally, with the other three serving as backups. All four modules can be used and accessed from either of the redundant payload computers. 

Launched in 1990, with more than 30 years of operations, Hubble has made observations that have captured imaginations worldwide and deepened our knowledge of the cosmos.

For more information about the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit view the following PDF: 

NASA continues to work on resolving an issue with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope. The operations team will be running tests and collecting more information on the system to further isolate the problem. The science instruments will remain in a safe mode state until the issue is resolved. The telescope itself and science instruments remain in good health. 

The computer halted on Sunday, June 13. An attempt to restart the computer failed on Monday, June 14. Initial indications pointed to a degrading computer memory module as the source of the computer halt. When the operations team attempted to switch to a back-up memory module, however, the command to initiate the backup module failed to complete. Another attempt was conducted on both modules Thursday evening to obtain more diagnostic information while again trying to bring those memory modules online. However, those attempts were not successful. 

The payload computer is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s that is located on the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit. The computer’s purpose is to control and coordinate the science instruments and monitor them for health and safety purposes. It is fully redundant in that a second computer, along with its associated hardware, exists on orbit that can be switched over to in the event of a problem. Both computers can access and use any of four independent memory modules, which each contain 64K of Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) memory. The payload computer uses only one memory module operationally at a time, with the other three serving as backups. 

Launched in 1990, Hubble has contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe over the past 30 years.

For more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble 

NASA is working to resolve an issue with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope. The computer halted on Sunday, June 13, shortly after 4 p.m. EDT. After analyzing the data, the Hubble operations team is investigating whether a degrading memory module led to the computer halt. The team is preparing to switch to one of several backup modules on Wednesday, June 16. The computer will then be allowed to run for approximately one day to verify that the problem has been solved. The team would then restart all science instruments and return the telescope to normal science operations.

The purpose of the payload computer is to control and coordinate the science instruments onboard the spacecraft. After the halt occurred on Sunday, the main computer stopped receiving a “keep-alive” signal, which is a standard handshake between the payload and main spacecraft computers to indicate all is well. The main computer then automatically placed all science instruments in a safe mode configuration. Control center personnel at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland restarted the payload computer on Monday, June 14, but it soon experienced the same problem.

The payload computer is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s. It is part of the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling module, which was replaced during the last astronaut servicing mission in 2009. The module has various levels of redundancy which can be switched on to serve as the primary system when necessary.

For more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble 

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA. AURA’s Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope lives: switch to backup hardware fixes glitch

CNET 18 July, 2021 - 06:00pm

NASA's beloved Hubble Space Telescope has been facing one of its greatest challenges. A technical glitch left it in safe mode for over a month. This week, NASA said it finally tracked down the source of the issue and tried a new fix, and it seems to have worked.

"NASA has successfully switched to backup hardware on the Hubble Space Telescope, including powering on the backup payload computer, on July 15," the space agency announced on Friday.

The telescope has been in service for over 30 years. The Hubble team had been looking at the payload computer -- hardware dating back to the 1980s -- as the potential source of a memory problem. "A series of multi-day tests, which included attempts to restart and reconfigure the computer and the backup computer, were not successful, but the information gathered from those activities has led the Hubble team to determine that the possible cause of the problem is in the Power Control Unit," NASA said.  

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

As with the payload computer, the PCU is part of Hubble's Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit. The PCU is responsible for supplying a constant and steady source of electricity to the computer and its memory. Hubble is equipped with a lot of backup systems, including a spare PCU. 

Since the issue cropped up on June 13, Hubble's science work has been stalled. The switch to backup hardware should give the telescope a new lease on life. "The Hubble team is now monitoring the hardware to ensure that everything is working properly," said NASA. It will take over a day to get the science instruments out of safe mode before normal science operations can resume.  

NASA operates Hubble in partnership with the European Space Agency. "We're extremely happy to announce that Hubble is back online!" ESA's Hubble team tweeted on Friday. "Congratulations to the entire team that worked around the clock to make this happen."

We're extremely happy to announce that Hubble is back online! Congratulations to the entire team that worked around the clock to make this happen. A big thank you goes to the NASA GSFC/STScI engineering & science team. Next up: resuming scientific observations #WelcomeBackHubble https://t.co/t8SMzk0ZAH

There has been concern for the aging telescope. Its successor, the much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, is still here on Earth, waiting for a possible late-2021 launch.

Hubble has weathered many technical glitches in its time, and it's looking like the venerable telescope will persevere through this latest one. Hold on, universe, Hubble is coming back.

Follow CNET's 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.      

NASA Is Testing the James Webb Space Telescope Before Launch | Digital Trends

Digital Trends 17 July, 2021 - 12:47pm

The telescope has now reached three milestones in its final round of testing ahead of its planned launch later this year.

Firstly, the telescope’s “lens cap” has been removed. Technically known as the aft optics subsystem cover, this piece protects the instruments during the assembly and preparation stages and prevents any contamination from tainting them. In the image at the top of this page you can see technician Larkin Carey removing the cover so that the rest of the hardware can be folded up for its trip to space.

Secondly, Webb has a tower which telescopes up to 10 feet in length to keep the mirrors and instruments separate from the side of the observatory which faces the sun. This is in order to keep the instruments cool so that fluctuations in heat from the sun don’t affect their readings. The tower was recently deployed for the final time to check it is ready for its eventual deployment in space.

Thirdly, the telescope needs to fold up into a small volume to fit inside the Ariane 5 rocket which will launch it into orbit. This requires a complex system of folding parts, particularly for large items like the tennis-court sized sunshield. The folded sunshield will sit on top of a support called the unitized pallet structure, and now that the lens cap has been removed, the pallet has been folded up ready for launch as well.

These tests were performed at a Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, California. Once all final tests are complete, the telescope will be folded and stowed for the last time before being shipped to Kourou, French Guiana ready for its launch in November 2021.

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NASA fixes Hubble Space Telescope a month after suspension of science operations

Republic World 17 July, 2021 - 12:13pm

Later, the team switched the spacecraft to backup hardware. According to aeronautics and space research organisations, a similar glitch was also witnessed in 2008 after part of the older system failed. While informing about the recent developments, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the Hubble alumni along with the current members have lent their support and expertise to fix the giant equipment. "Hubble is an icon, giving us incredible insight into the cosmos over the past three decades,” said NASA Administrator.

"Proud of the Hubble team, from current members to Hubble alumni who stepped in to lend their support and expertise. Thanks to their dedication and thoughtful work, Hubble will continue to build on its 31-year legacy, broadening our horizons with its view of the universe," said NASA in a statement released on its website on Saturday.

NASA says Hubble telescope is back after computer glitch fixed

UPI News 17 July, 2021 - 08:55am

"The switch was performed to compensate for a problem with the original payload computer that occurred on June 13 when the computer halted, suspending science data collection," NASA said.

The Hubble team "is now monitoring the hardware to ensure that everything is working properly," it added.

Meanwhile, engineers are also seeking to switch Hubble's science instruments out of their "safe mode" configuration -- a process expected to last into Saturday "as the team runs various procedures and ensures the instruments are at stable temperatures."

Scientists will then carry out initial calibrations before resuming normal science operations.

The payload computer, part of Hubble's Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit, or SI C&DH unit, controls the telescope's many scientific instruments. When it froze, Hubble's instruments automatically halted operations and went into "safe mode."

After weeks of investigation, engineers at NASA traced the problem to Hubble's Power Control Unit, or PCU, which is also located in the SI C&DH unit.

NASA Restores Hubble With a Switch to Backup Hardware | Digital Trends

Digital Trends 17 July, 2021 - 07:57am

The problems began when the instruments switched to safe mode on June 13, due to a failure of the computer which controls them. Identifying the particular component which was causing the problem took some time, but eventually the issue was tracked to a piece of hardware called the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit and its power unit, the Power Control Unit.

This week, the engineers switched from the original hardware of these two units to the backup hardware. Most of the hardware in Hubble includes backup versions, in case a problem should occur as it did in this case. However, switching between the two isn’t as simple as flicking a switch, as it requires powering down other components as well and ensuring that the changeover can be made without causing any further problems.

The good news is that the switch to backup hardware was successful, as NASA described: “The switch included bringing online the backup Power Control Unit (PCU) and the backup Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) on the other side of the Science Instrument and Command & Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. The PCU distributes power to the SI C&DH components, and the CU/SDF sends and formats commands and data.”

With the main changeover made, the engineers also made changes to other pieces of hardware as well: “In addition, other pieces of hardware onboard Hubble were switched to their alternate interfaces to connect to this backup side of the SI C&DH. Once these steps were completed, the backup payload computer on this same unit was turned on and loaded with flight software and brought up to normal operations mode.”

Now, the team just needs to check that everything is working as it should, and then they can bring the science instruments out of safe mode and calibrate them before Hubble can resume its scientific operations. This is estimated to take a few days, so hopefully, Hubble will be back up and running next week.

Copyright ©2021 Designtechnica Corporation. All rights reserved.

Hubble Space Telescope Is Back in Action After NASA Fixes Odd Glitch

The Wall Street Journal 17 July, 2021 - 07:18am

As the bus-size observatory circled Earth, space agency engineers worked by remote control to switch Hubble from its vintage electronics to backup hardware. In the final step, they powered up a payload computer that restored control of its six cameras and sensors, which peer through visible, infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of light to the edge of space and the dawn of time.

“We are absolutely delighted that the observatory is up and running again,” said Kenneth Sembach, director of the Baltimore-based Space Telescope Science Institute, which handles the Hubble science operations. “All indications are that it’s doing well and we will get back to doing science again this weekend.”

In more than a million mind-expanding images of the universe snapped over the past 31 years, the solar-powered telescope has presented to astronomers and amateur stargazers alike a psychedelic tapestry of infant stars, dying supernovae, colliding galaxies, towering billows of stellar dust, dark matter and black holes feasting on spiral nebulae.

Hubble data has been used in more than 18,000 scientific papers that have documented the accelerating expansion of the universe, the evolution of galaxies and studies of planets beyond our solar system, NASA officials said.

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Hubble Space Telescope Fixed After Month of No Astronomical Viewing

Gadgets 360 17 July, 2021 - 01:06am

Hubble Space Telescope went dark in mid-June

The Hubble Space Telescope should be back in action soon, following a tricky, remote repair job by NASA.

The orbiting observatory went dark in mid-June, with all astronomical viewing halted.

NASA initially suspected a 1980s-era computer as the source of the problem. But after the backup payload computer also failed, flight controllers at Maryland's Goddard Space Flight Center focused on the science instruments' bigger and more encompassing command and data unit, installed by spacewalking astronauts in 2009.

Engineers successfully switched to the backup equipment Thursday, and the crucial payload computer kicked in. NASA said Friday that science observations should resume quickly, if everything goes well.

A similar switch took place in 2008 after part of the older system failed.

“Congrats to the team!” NASA's science mission chief Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has made more than 1.5 million observations of the universe. NASA launched five repair missions to the telescope during the space shuttle program. The final tuneup was in 2009.

NASA plans to launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, by year's end.

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