Almost three weeks ago, the Hubble Space Telescope went offline. NASA has been working since then to determine the root cause and fix the problem, but troubleshooting a highly technical device that is in space is not the easiest task.
Workers have narrowed down the cause since the June 13 shutdown and discovered a slew of things that aren’t involved, but a more specific issue has yet to be detected. And since no action can be taken to resolve the issue until at least one general cause is found, the diagnosis is still ongoing. In the meantime, the telescope and its instruments are stored in a safe configuration.
Currently, NASA believes the problem is caused by something within the scientific instrument’s data processing and control unit, which contains the payload’s computer system. Since this module contains a control processor, a memory module, a communication bus, and a processor that formats data and commands so that the controller can communicate with other instruments (and transmit data to Earth), there is still a lot to dig.
An initial investigation indicated that the memory module was faulty, so the first thing the workers did was switch to one of the three backup memory modules. This had no effect, however, and after trying all three backups, Hubble still failed to write or read memory.
The team now believe the problem may lie elsewhere, and they are now investigating other top candidates like the Scientific Data Controller / Trainer and the Power Control Unit. If either of these is seen to be the problem, it will require a “more complicated operating procedure to move to the backup units” than the ones the team carried out on June 23-24.
The historic telescope was launched over 30 years ago and since then has made over 600,000 observations (such as the accelerating expansion of the universe) that have helped NASA and other institutions explore and better understand the universe around us and take some of the most breathtaking images we have objects in space. Scientists have already been able to fix other issues that Hubble encountered, such as a failed data trainer in 2008, so there is reason to stay positive with this issue.
Hopefully NASA is able to determine the cause of the problem and get the one-of-a-kind telescope back on track, because the information Hubble is providing us is invaluable. We want to keep it for years to come!