Engineers troubleshooting a fault with the Huge Subject Digicam three aboard the Hubble Area Telescope say the issue might be a situation or a software program glitch of some kind. If the previous, the digicam might be converted to a redundant set of electronics and resume regular operations. If the latter, engineers could possibly reset the software program, clearing the error and, once more, resuming regular operations and observations.
Both method, engineers with NASA and the digicam’s builder, Ball Aerospace, are assured they’ll restore the instrument to good well being.
“We’re going to do a couple of extra exams the following couple of days,” Thomas Brown, head of the Hubble Area Telescope mission workplace on the Area Telescope Science Institute. “There’s no rush as a result of there’s loads of different science with the opposite three devices. So there’s no purpose to hurry. The primary aim right here is to do no hurt.”
If the issue is software program associated, “we’d energy cycle it, clear the error and see if it comes again up,” Brown mentioned. “If it does then we’re good. If it appears to be like like there’s nonetheless an issue, we’d perhaps need to go to the redundant electronics. Or perhaps not. It is determined by the character of the issue.”
The digicam was constructed with two impartial units of management electronics to deal with simply this type of drawback. The backup set, or channel, has by no means been used and is in pristine situation if wanted.
Put in in the course of the fifth and last area shuttle servicing mission in 2009, the Huge Subject Digicam three is one among Hubble’s premier science devices, together with the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, the Superior Digicam for Surveys and the Area Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
The WFC3 makes observations in near-infrared gentle and at ultraviolet-visible wavelengths. The anomaly that cropped up on eight January affected the ultraviolet-visible channel. The infrared channel was working usually at the moment.
Regardless of the digicam situation and the traditional put on and tear of orbital operations, Brown mentioned Hubble ought to stay operational by way of 2025 if not longer.
“The engineers at NASA incessantly replace their evaluation of how dependable the crucial subsystems are and the devices are,” he mentioned. “On the crucial subsystems, all these (reliability) curves are over 80 p.c till January 2025 and the devices are throughout 85 p.c. … We now have each purpose to consider Hubble can be working till 2025 if not longer.”
As for the continued partial shutdown of the U.S. authorities, together with NASA, Brown mentioned Hubble has not but been affected.
“The shutdown just isn’t affecting us (on the Area Telescope Science Institute), and the flight operations individuals at Goddard (Area Flight Middle) are thought of important,” he mentioned. “So far as troubleshooting this anomaly on Huge Subject Digicam three, we’ve been having anomaly evaluation board discussions on and off for the previous couple of days, and we now have all of the specialists from the flight ops crew and the individuals who constructed the instrument at Ball Aerospace. They’re additionally not affected by the shutdown. We now have all the precise specialists on the road troubleshooting issues. So we’re positive proper now.”