In a moment where Astro-geeks across the worlds lifted their hands and exclaimed ‘Finally’, NASA fixed the iconic yet aging Hubble Space Telescope remotely after a month of no viewing of astronomical objects. The resurrection was done after the Hubble Space Telescope was made to work on ‘safe-mode’ where essentially all non-important systems were shut down.
Beloved but aging Hubble Space Telescope was finally resurrected by NASA and will now once again be able to peek into the heavens and bring back astounding images. The Hubble Space Telescope overcame a tedious and complicated hardware problem which plagued it from operating normally since a month.
The Hubble Space Telescope backup payload computer was successfully brought online after a successful switch to backup hardware. Following a short checkout period, the science instruments will be brought back to operational status.https://t.co/Wca2Puz4mT
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) July 16, 2021
Hubble’s Payload Computer Freezes
On June 16, 2021, NASA announced a servicing mission to resolve an issue with the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer. The issue was reported on June 13 when the payload computer – which in a nutshell controls the telescope’s instruments, stopped working. The sensors were put into an inactive safe mode and the geniuses at NASA worked together to change the Hubble’s status from offline to online.
The Technical Resolution Provided by NASA
In its statement, NASA wrote-
“NASA has successfully switched to backup hardware on the Hubble Space Telescope, including powering on the backup payload computer.”
On its website, NASA went into the technical details about the issue and its resolution. It wrote-
“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,”
-it further added.
NASA Engineers try Identifying the issue – and Fail
Earlier, while trying to identify the issue, the engineers over at the US-based space agency thought that the memory module at the Hubble was damaged due to radiation – leading to the computer’s failure. When the engineers switched to the backup memory, the situation remained the same and Hubble was still a giant hunk of sensors and mirrors floating in the space.
Another Failure – Concerns of Hubble being Beyond Repair Float
After that, the engineers probed into other components of the computer and tried the Hubble’s backup payload computer. However, their efforts were in vain as Hubble still failed to read and write from and to its memory. Multiple failed attempts did concern the engineers over at NASA and there were reports of Hubble being beyond repair.
In-Depth Review Carried Out, Faulty PCU Identified
The Hubble Space Telescope’s mission control team then carried out an in-depth review of all the processes that may be affecting the switchover of the main payload computer to the backup. In this review process it was identified that a faulty PCU (power control unit) was causing the issue as the unit’s main job is to maintain the supply of voltage to the computer – and if it fails to do so – the payload computer is rendered useless.
All is well that ends well
After the team switched to the backup PCU – all the systems fired up and now the iconic telescope will continue peering at the spaces, capturing images and helping the scientific community sitting on Earth.
“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. The team will then conduct some initial calibration of the instruments before resuming normal science operations,”