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Hubble Space Telescope is Back in Business

Famed telescope down for weeks likely due to glitchy power supply

By Pedigo Sat 24 Jul, 2021 7:27 PM
After spending more than a month orbiting Earth in "safe mode," the Hubble Space Telescope is online again with all of its science instruments fully operational, according to NASA.

Launched in 1990 and built from 1980s-era hardware, engineers managed to revive the satellite on Saturday, July 17th. The culprit is suspected to be the Power Control Unit which provides a steady voltage supply to the telescope’s computer system.

On June 13th, the computer inside of Hubble crashed suddenly, automatically taking down all of its scientific instruments and switching them over to a “safe mode” configuration preventing any further damage. Technicians were unable to reboot the glitched systems.

However, last week, NASA engineers uncovered the cause of the power control unit’s glitch in a special protection circuit that normally prevents the power supply from sending too much or too little power to the computer. Once the power supply exceeds safe operating levels, the circuit automatically drops into failsafe mode, shutting the computer down.

NASA’s analysis points to either the voltage level in the regulator operating outside acceptable levels and thus tripping secondary circuit protection or the secondary protection itself has degraded over the years and is stuck in an inhibited state.

Technicians worked around the problem by moving operations over to Hubble’s backup computer and turning on a backup power control unit.

Now on its backup hardware, Hubble will continue observing the known universe alongside the new James Webb Space Telescope which is expected to launch later this year. NASA is hopeful that the two satellites will work in tandem gazing at the cosmos for many years to come. Any missed scheduled observations durings Hubble’s downtime are to be rescheduled.

It’s truly remarkable that satellites built from decades-old technology are still in orbit and continue gathering data from celestial objects many lightyears away. The telescope has greatly increased our understanding of our own galaxy, black holes, and planets beyond our own system.

What are your favorite discoveries from Hubble?

WRITTEN BY Pedigo
EDITED BY Silek


IMAGES SOURCED FROM JPL/NASA
7 Comments
Sun 25 Jul, 2021 6:42 AM
Maybe it was still running on win95 Smile
But seriously, this is an old telescope in space and it is still running after all these year’s collecting data from space.
And we have to buy a new computer every year or so to be updated with the newest technology.
NASA has some good equipment I must say.
Sun 25 Jul, 2021 1:21 PM
Considering the ammount of time it managed to stay in service with 80s hardware, I'm impressed with NASA tecnology.
Sun 25 Jul, 2021 1:25 PM
Considering the ammount of time it managed to stay in service with 80s hardware, I'm impressed with NASA tecnology.
Fair point. But the 80's were the best decade Wink
Sun 25 Jul, 2021 1:25 PM
Considering the ammount of time it managed to stay in service with 80s hardware, I'm impressed with NASA tecnology.
Don't forget the Voyager probes are also still out there and are working with 70s hardware.
Tue 27 Jul, 2021 12:05 AM
Don't forget the Voyager probes are also still out there and are working with 70s hardware.
The Human Adventure is just beginning, but indeed Voyager probes was one of the best science advance on space human race ever made, it's quite impressive to see it's still operational with 70s hardware.

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Fair point. But the 80's were the best decade Wink
Fair point as well. 80s was golden age for many things.
Thu 05 Aug, 2021 12:11 AM
Still blows me away to think that Hubble is wearing glasses, being nearsighted since launch!
Thu 05 Aug, 2021 12:13 AM
Fair point. But the 80's were the best decade Wink
Close, but wrong. The 90's were the best! But don't worry, it's okay to disagree! Everybody has the right to be wrong. ;-)