WASHINGTON – Spacecraft controllers continue to work on a faulty computer memory system on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope that has shut down telescope operations for nearly a week.
A payload computer on Hubble ceased to function on June 13, the agency said in a June 16 statement. Engineers speculated that the computer, used to manage the operations of Hubble’s science instruments, malfunctioned due to a degrading memory module, putting the instruments into safe mode.
The agency said at the time that it would deactivate a backup memory module that day and, after about a day of testing, restart the instruments and resume scientific observations.
However, in a June 18 statement, NASA said these efforts to switch to a backup memory module failed because “the command to launch the backup module failed.” An attempt to restore the computer with both the original memory module and the tape drive also failed.
NASA did not specify the next steps to correct the problem, saying only that the operations team “will perform tests and collect more information about the system to further isolate the problem.” The instruments themselves, and the rest of the telescope, remain healthy.
The payload computer is a 1980s system that can use any of four memory modules, each containing 64 kilobytes of complementary metal oxide solid-state memory. A backup computer is also available.
This is not the first technical issue for Hubble, launched 31 years ago and last served by the Space Shuttle 12 years ago. In March, an issue with a software “upgrade” recently uploaded to the telescope put the telescope in safe mode for several days. A faulty gyroscope took the telescope offline for three weeks in October 2018.
“We have anomalies. It happens when you have a decades-old observatory, but we were able to fix these anomalies, ”Nancy Levenson, deputy director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, said in a public session at the 238th American meeting. Astronomical Society in June. 8.
She pointed out that the telescope, in general, worked well and was still in high demand by astronomers. The institute, which manages Hubble’s science operations and soon the James Webb Space Telescope, plans to expand Hubble’s operations.
“We continue to plan for the very long term,” she said. One example she gave was “COS 2030”, a program to extend the life of the cosmically-based spectrograph, an instrument installed on Hubble during this last maintenance mission in 2009, until the end. of the decade.