Hubble Space Telescope sails serenely on in safe mode after efforts to switch to backup memory modules fail

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

Updated The Hubble Space Telescope has continued to resist efforts by NASA last week to bring its payload computer back online.

It has now been more than a week since the computer halted on Sunday 13 June. An attempt to restart it the following Monday failed with initial indications pointing to a failing memory module.

At the time, a NASA spokesperson told The Register that the veteran telescope only required one of its four memory modules and so planned to swap to a backup module in order to resume operations.

According to NASA, "the command to initiate the backup module failed to complete." The team had another crack at bringing up both modules on Thursday 17 June but again failed.

While Hubble was designed to be serviceable by astronauts, its hardware is also highly redundant. As well as the four memory modules, there are two onboard computers. Only one is required for normal operations and the telescope can switch over to the other in the event of a problem. Both can access and use any one of those four independent memory modules, each of which contains 64K of CMOS memory.

The payload computer itself is a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s. Although the telescope and its science instruments remain in good health, the computer is required to coordinate and monitor the payload.

"The operations team will be running tests and collecting more information on the system to further isolate the problem," said NASA.

The issue follows others suffered by the ageing spacecraft. A broken bit of code sent the poor thing into a safe mode earlier this year and Hubble's aperture door failed to close.

The last servicing mission was 2009's STS 125, and the orbiters that were capable of ferrying astronauts and spare parts to the telescope are now sat in museums around the United States. Despite wishful thinking by some SpaceX fans, a further fix-it flight is highly unlikely, particularly since the James Webb Space Telescope is finally set for launch in the coming months. ®

Updated to add at 14:08 UTC:

A NASA spokesperson got in touch to tell The Register that the team was continuing to work on the payload computer issue, and were gathering data to "determine the best path forward for bringing the computer back to operations."

"At this time, there is no definitive timeline for bringing the computer back online. However, the team has multiple options available to them and are working to find the best solution to return the telescope to science operations as soon as possible."

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022