Hubble Space Telescope hit by computer glitch, says Nasa
The Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990 and changed our vision of the universe, has been down for the past few days and operations are underway to restore its payload computer, Nasa said on Friday. Nasa said the computer halted on June 13 and flight controllers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland attempted to restart it on June 14 but could not.
According to the US space agency, initial indications pointed to a degrading memory module of the 1980s-era computer as the source of the problem with Hubble. "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," Nasa said.
Nasa's flight controllers are now trying to switch to a backup memory unit. "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 space agency said.
Hubble has undergone a series of repairs and updates by spacewalking astronauts during Nasa's shuttle era. The idled computer was installed during the fifth and final service call in 2009.
Nasa plans to launch Hubble's more powerful successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, in November this year. This observatory will be too far from Earth—1 million miles (1.5 million kilometres) away in a solar orbit—for astronaut tune-ups. Its launch from French Guiana using Europe's Ariane rocket is years behind schedule and rocket processing and scheduling issues are behind the latest delay of two weeks.