Although the Hubble Space Telescope, which had been in operation for more than 30 years, broke down, it took a month to fully recover. NASA has revealed. The on-board observation computer stopped abnormally, but the cause was identified and the necessary system was switched to the backup. Observations resumed on the 17th, and NASA declared a resurgence that “scientific instruments are fully functional.” The operation, which greatly exceeded the design life of 15 years, will continue.
According to NASA sources, Hubble suddenly shut down its “payload computer,” which controls its onboard scientific equipment, on June 13. The “main computer” could no longer receive signals, and scientific instruments switched to “safe mode” to protect themselves and stopped observing. The terrestrial telescope team remotely switched the degraded memory module, which was initially suspected to be the cause, to backup, but did not resolve it.
As a result of various verifications, it was identified that there was a problem with the “power control unit” that stably sends power to the payload computer. On July 15th, the telescope team succeeded in switching the upper units including the power control unit to backup. The operation of scientific instruments resumed, and on the 17th, we photographed two galaxies that interact with each other and a rare spiral galaxy with three arms. Observations suspended during the failure are planned again.
Technicians on the telescope team worked remotely at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where the control room is located, as well as due to restrictions due to the new coronavirus infection (COVID-19). The telescope was built over 30 years ago. The work proceeded with the cooperation of “Hubble graduates” such as retirees who knew the details of the design at that time and those who were transferred to other teams.
Unlike the telescope on the ground, the space telescope is not affected by the atmosphere, so it can observe celestial bodies with high accuracy. The Hubble Space Telescope in the United States and Europe, launched in 1990, is a reflecting telescope that mainly observes visible light and orbits about 550 km above the sky. It is 13.1 meters long and weighs 11 tons, and the diameter of the primary mirror is 2.4 meters. It has achieved great results in observations of galaxies, extrasolar planets, and the universe immediately after its birth.
Hubble is named after Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), an American astronomer who concluded that the universe is expanding. The “James Webb Space Telescope,” which was developed by the United States, Europe, and Canada as a successor and specializes in infrared observation, is scheduled to be launched later this year.
Artificial satellites such as the space telescope are usually not directly repairable once launched. In Hubble, on the other hand, astronauts headed by the US Space Shuttle have been repairing and replacing equipment five times. The shuttle was abolished in 2011, after which only remote work is possible.