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 as soon as it detected the issue. The computer halted on Sunday, June 13th around 4 pm EDT. The payload computer’s purpose is to control and coordinate the science instruments being used.
NASA’s flight controller flew in as soon as the computer shut down again on Monday and the team is now trying to fix the issue. They’re trying to switch to a backup memory module and if that works, the computer will then be tested for a whole day to verify if the problem has been resolved or not. If they receive an all-clear sign, only then will they turn on all the science instruments back.
According to NASA’s blog post “The payload computer is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s. It is part of the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling module, which was replaced during the last astronaut servicing mission in 2009. The module has various levels of redundancy which can be switched on to serve as the primary system when necessary”.
Hubble was already on its last breaths. This recent fault was the latest of a series of faults plaguing the old telescope that has been in service since the 90s. Even the payload computer being used is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s. The last time the computer was serviced was in 2009s when the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling module was last replaced.
NASA posted a blog post detailing the issue and how they were trying to resolve it still the computer will have to go through tests for a whole day before even trying to turn all the science instruments back on. This is what happens when you rely too much on an old computer.
Experts say that Hubble may not survive long enough to see its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to launch later this year. We’ll keep you updated as soon as we receive more news on the matter.