Hubble Space Telescope Is Back! NASA Addresses Major Computer Glitch

Hubble Space Telescope is Back! NASA Addresses Major Computer Glitch
The Hubble Space Telescope is back up after NASA finally found the potential source of the glitch. Switches to backups were performed to address the error. Hubble should restart science observations in a few days. Photo : NASA/Getty Images

The Hubble Space Telescope is potentially back up and running after NASA engineers have identified the possible cause of the space telescope's problems. Hubble was rendered in safe mode for over a month after suffering a glitch.

Hubble Space Telescope Glitch

The telescope has been in service for over 30 years since it was deployed on April 25, 1990. The space telescope has been out of action since June 13, 2021, after it suffered a glitch with its payload computer that handles and monitors the science instruments fitted in the telescope, Space added.

There was an error in communications with the instruments in the payload computer that put the instruments into safe mode. Hubble's operators initially thought a memory module was at fault and after switching to one of the three backup modules, the error still showed up, Science Mag reported. Various other devices were investigated and ruled out as the problem persisted. Finally, NASA seems to have zeroed in on the cause of the error.

The payload computer is over 30 years old and NASA ran a series of multi-day tests that led to the Hubble team determining the possible root of the problem is the Power Control Unit.

The PCU is a part of Hubble's Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit and is responsible for supplying a constant and steady source of electricity to the computer and its memory, NASA explained in their report.

Upon analysis, the original PCU may have had voltage levels outside the acceptable levels or the secondary protection circuit has degraded over time and is "stuck in this inhibit state."

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NASA Switched to Backups

After unsuccessfully resetting the PCU, NASA decided to run the backup PCU and Command Unit/Science Data Formatter. Other pieces of hardware onboard Hubble were also switched to their alternate interfaces to connect to this backup side of the Science Instrument Command and Data Handler, NASA said.

Space recalled similar fixes like the one in 2008 when the team switched out the Command Unit/Science Data Formatter after the module failed.

In 2009, Spacewalking astronauts replaced the entire Science Instrument Command and Data Handler unit that is what is fitted and currently used by Hubble.

Hubble has weathered many technical glitches in its time in space and this glitch isn't what is going to take it down. The aging telescope does that a successor, although it is still here on Earth, CNet said. The James Webb Space Telescope is waiting for a possible launch later this year.

The Europeans Space Agency's Hubble team tweeted on Friday that they were extremely happy to announce that Hubble is back online. The Hubble team is now monitoring the hardware to ensure that everything is working properly.

Tom Brown, head of the Hubble mission office, told his colleagues this morning that Hubble successfully recovered into Normal Mode on Side A of the Science Instrument Command and Data Handler. This would be the first time the team has made progress beyond the problem they were seeing on Side B, according to Science Mag.

Recovery of the science instruments out of their safe mode configuration has begun and tests and initial calibrations will be performed before resuming normal science operations.

Optimistic, Hubble should restart science observations this weekend if all continues normally, Brown said.

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