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NASA Researchers to Bring Hubble to Return to Science Operations

After experiencing problems with an on board computer on June 13 and suspending all science activities, NASA researchers have successfully resurrected the iconic Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope is now fully operating, and the backup hardware swap — which included turning on the backup payload computer — was completed on July 16. The collection of science data began on July 17 after all of its science instruments were brought back online.

 NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “Hubble is an icon, giving us incredible insight into the cosmos over the past three decades. I’m proud of the Hubble team, from current members to Hubble alumni who stepped in to lend their support and expertise. Thanks to their dedication and thoughtful work, Hubble will continue to build on its 31-year legacy, broadening our horizons with its view of the universe.”

Hubble’s main computer ceased receiving a “keep-alive” signal from the telescope’s payload computer at 20:00 UTC on Sunday, June 13. When Hubble’s main computer detected the payload computer failure, it instantly put the telescope into safe mode, shutting down all science equipment and allowing just critical telescope systems, such as power and communication, to operate.

Hubble technicians in the Goddard Space Flight Center’s control center in Maryland realized that the telescope was in safe mode and attempted to restart it the next day. However, the standstill occurred once more, and Hubble was forced to return to safe mode. Thankfully, the payload computer that caused the problem was built with redundancy in mind. As a result, in the case of a failure, a backup computer is available in orbit.The Hubble team discovered the underlying issue in the telescope’s payload computer’s Power Control Unit (PCU). It has a power regulator that delivers a constant five-volt supply to the payload’s computer hardware.

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