Feeds

Hubble fired up and ready for action

Back to work tomorrow, says NASA

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

NASA yesterday re-activated the Hubble space telescope's back-up computer system, following a few problems coaxing the venerable spare kit into life.

The decision to press the on button means Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observations should resume tomorrow, followed by Advanced Camera for Surveys Solar Blind Channel observations later next week.

Hubble was last month blinded by the failure of the Control Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) in its operational Side A Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit (SIC&DH), which packets data from the 'scope's five main instruments for transmission back to Earth.

NASA deployed the redundant Side B system, and hoped to have Hubble back in full science mode last Friday. However, while instrument reconfiguration "proceeded nominally" and the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, Near Infrared Camera and Multi Object Spectrometer were successfully commanded from safe to operate modes, things didn't go quite so smoothly with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The agency explained that on on 16 October "an anomaly occurred during the last steps of the commanding to the ACS". Its report elaborated: "When the low voltage power supply to the ACS Solar Blind Channel was commanded on, software running in a microprocessor in ACS detected an incorrect voltage level in the Solar Blind Channel and suspended ACS.

Several hours later, the Hubble computer "sensed the loss of a 'keep alive' signal from the NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer in the SIC&DH and correctly responded by safing the NSSC-I and the science instruments."

A NASA team duly investigated the matter, and now concludes that the ACS Solar Blind Channel's voltage woes were not caused by a hardware problem with the camera. NASA's update explains: "The anomaly was because of a limit-checking algorithm that triggered before the data that it was checking was valid. A commanding change on the instrument will eliminate this condition and both teams expect a nominal low voltage power supply turn-on when it is commanded on next week."

Regarding the "sudden halt" of the computer, the team found "that three separate events occurring with near-simultaneity were responses to a single triggering event".

Specifically, this triggering event was "most likely caused by a self-clearing short-circuit, or a transient open-circuit, in the SIC&DH system". NASA concludes: "One or more such events would not be highly improbable in hardware inactive since 1990, and will not harm the telescope, although it could cause another interruption of science operations."

The upshot of all this is that NASA decided to fire up the computer and "monitor it for about 24-hours to assess its operations". The agency will issue another update following resumption of planetary camera science tomorrow. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.