NASA Struggles to Fix Failure of Hubble Space Telescope’s 1980s Computer

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched by the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. Avoiding distortions of the atmosphere, Hubble has an unobstructed view peering to planets, stars, and galaxies, some more than 13.4 billion light-years away.
Credit: NASA

NASA continues to work on resolving an issue with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope. The operations team will be running tests and collecting more information on the system to further isolate the problem. The science instruments will remain in a safe mode state until the issue is resolved. The telescope itself and science instruments remain in good health.

The computer halted on Sunday, June 13. An attempt to restart the computer failed on Monday, June 14. Initial indications pointed to a degrading computer memory module as the source of the computer halt. When the operations team attempted to switch to a back-up memory module, however, the command to initiate the backup module failed to complete. Another attempt was conducted on both modules Thursday evening to obtain more diagnostic information while again trying to bring those memory modules online. However, those attempts were not successful.

The payload computer is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s that is located on the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit. The computer’s purpose is to control and coordinate the science instruments and monitor them for health and safety purposes. It is fully redundant in that a second computer, along with its associated hardware, exists on orbit that can be switched over to in the event of a problem. Both computers can access and use any of four independent memory modules, which each contain 64K of Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) memory. The payload computer uses only one memory module operationally at a time, with the other three serving as backups.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has contributed greatly to our understanding of the universe over the past 30 years.

SOURCE: SciTechDaily / click image TOP of PAGE