Of course we've tried turning it off and on again: Yeah, Hubble telescope still not working

Science suspended as engineers study synchronisation issue


Attempts to restore NASA's stricken Hubble Space Telescope by turning it off and on again appear to have failed.

Error codes were generated by the veteran spacecraft's science instruments indicating the loss of a specific synchronisation message on the morning of 23 October.

The message, according to NASA, "provides timing information the instruments use to correctly respond to data requests and commands."

Responding in tried and tested IT fashion, controllers reset the instruments and science operations were resumed the following morning.

However, a day later, at 06:38 UTC on 25 October (02:38 EDT), error codes popped up again from the science instruments, indicating multiple losses of synchronisation. The science payload dropped into safe mode automatically, while ground controllers pondered their next move.

Since a simple reset hasn't done the trick, the issue requires a little more investigation, the space agency said last night. Engineers are looking for ways of extracting more data to help diagnose the problem as well as studying the design of the aging spacecraft to better understand the issue itself. At the time of writing, NASA expected it would take at least a week to work through these activities.

The good news is that the Hubble remains in contact with controllers, even if its science instruments are now in safe mode. The bad news is that things are starting to stack up a bit. The telescope, which was designed to be serviced by astronauts, was last visited by a Space Shuttle in May 2009. The period from then to now is the longest the observatory has gone without an in-person visit and failures are therefore to be expected.

The spacecraft recovered from an outage lasting over a month back in July due to problems in a power control unit. The current suspension of science looks set to last for at least two weeks, although engineers have notched up an excellent track record in resurrecting the veteran hardware over the years.

No pressure, James Webb Space Telescope, no pressure. ®

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