Astronomers around the world can take a breath of relief because according to NASA, a procedure involving the swapping of the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer appears to have fixed the issue that had kept it in safe mode for weeks. As part of its efforts to resolve an outage that began on June 13, NASA stated on Thursday, July 15 that it had launched a “risky” switchover procedure to backup spacecraft hardware on Hubble.
“Hubble is back!” said Tom Brown, head of the Hubble mission office, and staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute to ScienceMag in an email. “I am excited to watch Hubble get back to exploring the universe.”
The backup payload computer of the Hubble Space Telescope was switched on today, July 16, and “loaded with flight software and brought up to normal operations mode,” according to the US space agency. Before restarting normal operations, NASA revealed that it had finally discovered the cause of the outage – a secondary protection circuit was either defective or was sensing an excessively high voltage level from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Power Control Unit (PCU).
NASA explained in its statement, the steps required to resume normal operations included “bringing online the backup Power Control Unit (PCU) and the backup Command Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) on the other side of the Science Instrument and Command & Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit.”
Hubble’s solar arrays provide a continuous voltage supply to various onboard sensors, including the payload computer, which is relayed by the Power Control Unit. NASA said that the “Hubble crew is now monitoring the hardware to ensure that everything is working properly. The crew has also begun the process of restoring the science instruments to their normal operating status.”