Over a month ago, the Hubble Space Telescope hit a wall. Not a literal wall mind you but a technical one that forced NASA to suspend all science operations aboard the telescope.
The telescope has now been offline since 13th June, but NASA appears to have found the problem and will be implementing a fix over the next few days.
So what is the problem? Something called a Power Control Unit (PCU).
This unit resides within the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit which in turn resides within the Hubble payload computer.
“It [the PCU] ensures a steady voltage supply to the payload computer’s hardware. The PCU contains a power regulator that provides a constant five volts of electricity to the payload computer and its memory. A secondary protection circuit senses the voltage levels leaving the power regulator. If the voltage falls below or exceeds allowable levels, this secondary circuit tells the payload computer that it should cease operations,” NASA explained in a press release.
After several weeks of analysis, NASA’s teams believe that the voltage level coming from the regulator is out of whack or the secondary protection circuit has fallen victim to the persistent march of time.
Unfortunately, ground teams haven’t been able to reset the PCU so NASA will instead switch over to the backup SI C&DH which contains a backup PCU.
“All testing of procedures for the switch and associated reviews have been completed, and NASA management has given approval to proceed. The switch will begin Thursday, July 15, and, if successful, it will take several days to completely return the observatory to normal science operations,” writes NASA.
The spacefaring organisation performed a switch similar to this in 2008. Back then a Command Unit/Science Data Formatter failed but fortunately the Space Shuttle program was still active and a replacement SI C&DH could be installed.
We will only know whether Hubble is operating at full functionality by next week given NASA’s advisement.
We’re waiting with bated breath.
[Image – NASA]
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Publish date : 2021-07-15 13:45:11