Science & Technology

Hubble Space Telescope team hits ‘reset’ to get balky camera back to doing science

NASA says the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 is back to doing science observations, every week after it went dark due to a telemetry glitch.

Mainly, engineers hit the reset button to clear up the telemetry downside. After going via checks and calibration, the camera accomplished its first science observations simply after midday ET (9 a.m. PT) in the present day, NASA said in a status update.

Hubble’s three different essential devices — the Superior Camera for Surveys, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph — have been unaffected by WFC3’s glitch.

WFC3 was put in throughout NASA’s last area shuttle servicing mission in 2009. Due to the shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011, there’s not any means to make home calls to Hubble. Any repairs have to be accomplished by sending instructions up to the orbiting telescope. For instance, a gyroscope problem was fixed last year by commanding the telescope to jiggle itself and unencumber what was assumed to be a blockage within the gyro.

Hubble’s essential successor, the $9.7 billion James Webb Space Telescope, is at present due for launch in 2021, and astronomers are hoping there’ll be some overlap in operations. Final week, Space News quoted Hubble’s mission managers as saying that the practically 29-year-old telescope’s devices and main subsystems have a excessive likelihood of remaining operational via 2025.

The restoration operation proceeded over the previous week unaffected by the partial authorities shutdown, regardless that different NASA actions have been curtailed. That’s in keeping with the area company’s mandate to shield life and property no matter its present funding state of affairs.

Right here’s Monday’s preliminary post-recovery standing report from NASA:

“NASA has moved nearer to conducting science operations once more with the Hubble Space Telescope’s Large Discipline Camera 3 instrument, which suspended operations on Tuesday, Jan. 8. As we speak, Jan. 15, the instrument was introduced back to its operations mode.

“Shortly after midday EST on Jan. 8, software program put in on the Large Discipline Camera 3 detected that some voltage ranges throughout the instrument have been out of the predefined vary. The instrument autonomously suspended its operations as a security precaution. Upon additional investigation, the voltage ranges appeared to be inside regular vary, but the engineering knowledge throughout the telemetry circuits for these voltage ranges weren’t correct. As well as, all different telemetry inside these circuits additionally contained inaccurate values, indicating that this was a telemetry situation and never an influence provide situation.

“After resetting the telemetry circuits and related boards, extra engineering knowledge have been collected and the instrument was introduced back to operations. All values have been regular. Extra calibration and checks can be run over the subsequent 48 to 72 hours to make sure that the instrument is working correctly. Additional investigation utilizing each the brand new and the beforehand collected engineering knowledge can be carried out to decide why these knowledge values have been initially incorrect.

“Assuming that every one checks work as deliberate, it’s anticipated that the Large Discipline Camera 3 will begin to acquire science pictures once more by the top of the week.”

And right here’s what NASA mentioned in the present day:

“The Hubble Space Telescope’s Large Discipline Camera 3 was introduced back to full operational standing and accomplished its first science observations simply after midday EST in the present day, Jan. 17. The instrument autonomously shut down on Jan. 8 after inside knowledge erroneously indicated invalid voltage ranges.

“The Large Discipline Camera 3 was put in on Hubble in Might 2009 over the last servicing mission. It has taken over 240,000 observations to date and is essentially the most used instrument of Hubble’s present complement.”

That is an up to date model of a report that was first revealed at 10:17 a.m. Jan. 16.

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