science

Hubble's backup computer is now malfunctioning after NASA tried to get the main one back online


The Hubble Space Telescope’s problems have worsened, as NASA said the backup computer is also malfunctioning, nearly two weeks after issues with the telescope first arose.

In a statement released late Friday, the US space agency said that preliminary tests done on June 23 and 24 showed that the backup computer suffered the same malfunction as the main payload computer, a 1980s machine that controls the Hubble’s science instruments.

‘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,’ NASA said in the statement.

‘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 backup computer had not been powered on since it was installed in 2009 during Hubble’s last servicing mission. 

The Hubble Space Telescope has been offline for nearly two weeks. NASA said that preliminary tests done on June 23 and 24 showed that the backup computer suffered the same malfunction as the main payload computer

The Hubble Space Telescope has been offline for nearly two weeks. NASA said that preliminary tests done on June 23 and 24 showed that the backup computer suffered the same malfunction as the main payload computer

Initially, it was believed that a memory module on the NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system was failing

Initially, it was believed that a memory module on the NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system was failing

Launched in 1990, Hubble is showing more and more signs of ageing, despite a series of repairs and updates by spacewalking astronauts during NASA's shuttle era

Launched in 1990, Hubble is showing more and more signs of ageing, despite a series of repairs and updates by spacewalking astronauts during NASA’s shuttle era

In addition, NASA engineers are also looking at the power regulator to see if the voltage being supplied to the machines are not flowing to ensure a steady supply.

Over the next week, NASA said engineers 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.’ 

A NASA spokesman told DailyMail.com there has been no update since June 25.

A joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency, the Hubble has been idle since shortly after 4 pm EDT June 13.

On June 14, flight controllers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland tried to restart the computer after they noticed it stopped working on June 13, but they ran into the same issue and could not get it to operate normally. 

Although it has stopped collecting data, Hubble’s the cameras and other instruments are in a so-called safe mode. 

Last week, after several tests on the main payload computer, a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s, the space agency admitted the issue was bigger than first believed.  

‘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 US space agency wrote in a June 22 update.

‘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.’ 

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the ESA told MailOnline that ‘Hubble is in safe mode, restoration work in progress, no back-to-service date given yet.’  

Initially, it was believed that a memory module on the NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system was failing.    

Launched in 1990, Hubble is showing more and more signs of ageing, despite a series of repairs and updates by spacewalking astronauts during NASA’s shuttle era. 

The Hubble recently marked its 31st anniversary in space, doing so with an image of a giant star that is ‘on the edge of destruction’.

The US space agency is going to replace the Hubble with $10 billion James Webb Telescope, however it has run into delays recently.  

The delay is a result of the European Space Agency-funded Ariane 5 rocket to launch not being ready. 

A NASA spokesperson told DailyMail.com earlier this month the launch of the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope will happen ‘no earlier than October 31.’

It is still expected to launch for space this year and James Webb will spent at least 30 percent of its first year studying exoplanets. 

NASAs Hubble Space Telescope is still working and has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.

He is arguably most famous for discovering that the universe is expanding and the rate at which is does so – now coined the Hubble constant. 

The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)

The Hubble telescope is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889 (pictured)

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers.

It orbits Earth at a speed of about 17,000mph (27,300kph) in low Earth orbit at about 340 miles in altitude.

Hubble has the pointing accuracy of .007 arc seconds, which is like being able to shine a laser beam focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s head on a dime roughly 200 miles (320km) away.

The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time

The Hubble telescope is named after Edwin Hubble who was responsible for coming up with the Hubble constant and is one of the greatest astronomers of all-time

Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters (7 feet, 10.5 inches) across and in total is 13.3 meters (43.5 feet) long – the length of a large school bus.

Hubble’s launch and deployment in April 1990 marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope. 

Thanks to five servicing missions and more than 25 years of operation, our view of the universe and our place within it has never been the same. 



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