The prestigious Hubble Space Telescope faces its worst failure in more than a decade. Although NASA is eager to restore the iconic observatory, the agency does not want to rush the repair process.
On June 13, Hubble unexpectedly stopped scientific work when the mission engineer initially suspected that the memory module was broken. But it turns out that the abnormal situation is more slippery than this.
Now, more than three weeks later, the NASA team is still trying to figure out what went wrong with Tomorrow’s text. Astronauts deployed from the space shuttle Discovery in 1990 and made the last repair in 2009. Although the anomaly is more intractable than at first, unsurprisingly, NASA officials believe Hubble has more scientific knowledge.
“Except for the fact that this particular anomaly means that the observatory cannot operate until we resolve it, I think that solving it is no different from other anomalies handled by NASA,” said Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at NASA. Tell Space.com in an interview.
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Troubleshooting spacecraft anomalies is always a bit tricky, Hertz points out because engineers can’t see Or touch the system and have the least data on what is happening.
“Trying to use the clues we have and understand the hardware and what it can and can’t do, and try to find hypothetical problems that may have produced the data we see, this is always a detective exercise.” Hertz said. “The typical way to fix the anomaly is to consider all the things that might go wrong, try to sort them by probability, and then move up the list.”
He said that in the weeks following the anomaly, more than a dozen experts have been working Study the list of possible culprits, which spacecraft troubleshooters call fish bones. At first, the team hoped to find the error on Hubble’s main computer, but the theory didn’t work-switching to a backup computer did not solve the problem. The tests along the way are usually easy to run.
Now, the fishbone seems to be aimed at the neighboring system that interacts with the computer and manages its data and power. Hertz said that validating these systems is riskier and more difficult: engineers must use more system components than in previous tests, and they must include the spacecraft itself, not just the computer.
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“Swapping them out and swapping the redundant components on the other side will require the command of the spacecraft, which is more risky because if you do something wrong, it will put the spacecraft in a bad state,” Hertz said.
Since downstream procedures involve risks, NASA has slowed down the troubleshooting process. “We are very deliberate not to press time on the team,” Hertz said. “I told them the goal is to safely restore Hubble science operations, not to complete it quickly.”
The team took a break on the long weekend holiday on July 4, and said it will now restart work to develop and analyze programs to switch to the data and power regulator backup module on the spacecraft. Hertz noted that before submitting any requests to Hubble, the entire plan must be approved by the independent review board and a team of NASA administrators, because one small mistake could end Hubble science forever.
However, while Hertz and other members of NASA are taking the current anomaly seriously, he said this topic does not mean it is time to say goodbye to their beloved observatory. “We all know that Hubble is getting old,” Hertz said.
“Parts in space will not fail as planned. This is random,” he added. “Since we’ve served Hubble for 12 years, one thing has finally failed. So it will just take another 5, 10, 12 years before other things fail. It may still be redundant, so it won’t be the end of either. The mission.”