The Hubble Space Telescope returned to operational status after a mysterious problem lasting nearly a month sent NASA scientists into a frenzy.
In a statement on Saturday, NASA said engineers had successfully upgraded the spacecraft to backup hardware, a process that began on July 15 after a computer anomaly occurred on June 13.
“I am delighted to see that Hubble’s eyes are once again on the universe, once again capturing the kind of images that have intrigued and inspired us for decades,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a statement.
The first images from the telescope after the debacle include a pair of colliding galaxies and a galaxy with unusual outstretched arms. According to NASA, most disk galaxies have an even number of spiral arms, but this one has three.
The telescope will observe globular star clusters and auroras on the giant planet Jupiter. NASA has not released any photos.
On June 13, a 1980s payload computer that was supposed to control and coordinate the scientific instruments aboard the Hubble and monitor them for health and safety purposes ceased to function.
“After shutdown (…) the main computer stopped receiving a ‘keep-alive’ signal, which is a standard handshake between the payload and the spacecraft’s main computers to indicate that all is well. well, ”NASA said in the statement.
At first, the team thought the problem was a degrading memory module, but attempts to switch to a backup memory module failed.
The team has drawn their attention to other pieces of hardware that could have caused the payload computer to shut down, but the culprit is still unclear. Jim Jeletic, Hubble’s deputy project manager at Goddard Space Flight Center, told USA TODAY that operators suspect the telescope’s power control unit (PCU), which is designed to provide constant voltage to the equipment in the payload computer.
“We can’t fully prove it, unless you bring the computer back to the ground and look at all the parts, but we suspect that either the voltage regulator was at fault for providing electricity a little out of range. or the circuit protector was at fault, ”Jeletic said.
The switch to backup hardware took 15 hours, according to Jeletic, and on July 16, the team began to restore all instruments to an operational state that were in the safe mode configuration.
“We are back to normal science operations,” Jeletic said.