Following a failure in the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer, the observation telescope has been offline for over a week now. The payload computer on the Hubble telescope had a faulty memory board which cascaded into all its scientific instrument being put into idle mode by the main computer. Now it seems that NASA has finally narrowed down the issue.
NASA first believed that the main underlying cause was the faulty 64K memory module. Yes, the K in 64K means kilobytes (or bits?), the Hubble computer is that old. It’s a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s. I wasn’t even born then. Anyways, NASA tried to swap the memory module in for a backup one but the Hubble telescope refused to turn on.
This confused the team a lot but now it seems that they are on right track. What if the memory corruption wasn’t the main cause but a symptom of what actually is causing the system failure. This train of thought has now shifted the team’s focus to the Standard Interface or STINT hardware.
The STINT hardware connects the Central Processing Module (CPM) to the computer’s other components and the team is now designing tests that can be run to remotely diagnose if the problem is actually here. A NASA spokesperson previously said that the fix they needed was just to swap to one of its backup modules in order to resume operations. However, now not knowing the actual problem might mean that the team could be too late in fixing the telescope.
Maybe they could just swap out the components for new ones like they did before in 2009. Astronauts back then replaced a recently failed Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit, which contains the payload computer and a backup for that system. They could just swap out the faulty components again.
We’re not sure if that is possible as it was then but we’ll keep you all posted on Hubble’s latest state as soon as we receive more information. If the telescope isn’t fixed, NASA will have to wait for the James Webb Space Telescope to launch later this year. Until that time NASA will have to make do without an orbiting observatory.