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Hubble Space Telescope to be switched to Backup Hardware, says NASA

After a month of puzzlement, NASA experts believe they’ve figured out what went wrong with the world’s most powerful space telescope more than a month ago. Hubble, which was sent into orbit in 1990, has caught images of star births and deaths, identified new moons near Pluto, and monitored two intergalactic objects as they flew through our solar system. As a result, astronomers have been able to use their observations to determine the universe’s age and expansion, as well as gaze into galaxies formed just after the Big Bang.

However, the telescope has been unavailable since June 13, when one of its main computers failed. Engineers at NASA have been running diagnostic tests and analyzing data over the past month. On Wednesday, the agency stated that they believe they have finally pinpointed the problem to a malfunctioning power regulator.

The Hubble troubleshooters are preparing to switch to the telescope’s backup hardware on Thursday, with some confidence that they’ve found the problematic component. Then, within a few days, it could be back to its science observations. Paul Hertz, director of NASA astrophysics division, said, “I do believe they’re going to succeed, but it’s not guaranteed.”

Hubble’s gear hasn’t been updated since 2009, and some of it is over 30 years old. On June 13, Hubble’s payload computer, a 1980s processor that operates and monitors all of the spacecraft’s science instruments, stopped working. Engineers tried and failed multiple times to get it back online. Finally, after more diagnostic tests, they discovered that the computer wasn’t the issue; the shutdown was caused by other gear aboard the spacecraft.It took another three weeks to figure out who might be to blame. Hubble experts now suspect that the payload computer was directed to shut down via a failsafe on the telescope’s Power Control Unit (PCU).

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