Feeds

Hubble's main camera back in action

Reactivated computer system bearing up

Top three mobile application threats

The Hubble space telescope's main camera is back in action following the reactivation last week of the flying eye's backup computer system.

On Saturday morning, the 'scope's science computer commanded the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 out of the safe mode in which the instrument had been slumbering since a computer failure on 16 October. NASA adds: "Additional commanding allowed engineers on the ground to assess the instrument's state of health and verify the contents of the camera's microprocessor memory."

The first images from the camera will be "for data calibration purposes", and the agency hopes to release an image later this 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 on 17 October. 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 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 saving 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."

Hubble's computer system is a venerable 486 piece of kit, installed in 1990 to replace the original 1970s vintage DF-224. NASA has details of its Intel-based "advanced new computer" here (pdf). ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.