Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=101855
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 3:56:18 PM CST
Photo courtesy of the Space Telescope Science Institute
WASHINGTON – NASA officials received the go ahead Thursday for another crack at reviving suspended science operations on the sputtering Hubble telescope.
The newest push comes after two anomalies caused a halt last week to repair operations by remote from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
On Thursday, commands were issued from Goddard to restart the backup science computer. NASA officials said they plan to monitor the computer until early Saturday morning when they expect to bring up the science equipment.
A new picture from the Hubble telescope is expected to be released to celebrate the resumption of science operations.
At Goddard, NASA officials have determined the likely causes of the two hiccups in the process.
Two competing computer routines caused the unplanned restart of an advanced survey camera. A later shutdown in the science computer was likely caused by an electrical circuit problem.
Scientists are expected to fix the software timing issues which caused the camera failure and NASA officials do not believe there is any damage from the electrical short. Hubble was designed with multiple fail-safes to prevent problems such as those experienced during the restart from cascading to other areas of the telescope.
Art Whipple, of the Hubble management office, said there was no harm done to any other equipment on the spacecraft.
This is the second longest outage in the history of the observatory. Hubble was down for six weeks in 1999 before a scheduled repair mission brought the telescope back online.
Hubble’s problems began on Sept. 27 when the science data formatter – a piece of the telescope which prepares data for transmission to Earth – suddenly stopped working. Science operations on the telescope are responsible for the thousands of iconic images which have been taken from the orbiting observatory.
Scientists at Goddard had hoped to complete the switch to “Side B” of the computer and the backup data formatter on Oct. 16, when the two latest setbacks occurred.
The original problem in September delayed the final space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the 18-year-old telescope. The launch will likely take place in February and the astronauts are expected to replace the faulty equipment on spacecraft during the first spacewalk of the mission.