NASA space agency says the Hubble telescope may switch to backup hardware later this week. That could mean that the space telescope can resume its scientific research. The problem started a month ago.
NASA said in a brief update that it has completed a formal investigation into all operations related to the potential switch to backup hardware. That switch is likely to happen later this week, though the investigation into the cause of the crashed payload computer is still ongoing.
Whether this supposed backup hardware enablement will succeed by the end of this week remains to be seen. A month ago, NASA tried to switch to two backup memory modules, but failed. The command to enable the backup module could not be completed. Efforts thereafter, including to collect diagnostic information, were also unsuccessful.
NASA previously suspected that a memory module was the cause, but the organization indicated that the memory errors could also be just a symptom and that another piece of hardware could be the culprit. The Command Unit/Science Data Formatter and a power controller on the Power Control Unit were also later considered. If one of these systems were the suspected cause, it would be more difficult to switch to backup hardware. If the backup Command Unit/Science Data Formatter or the backup power controller is to be used, multiple hardware parts of the spacecraft must also switch due to the way they are connected to the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling. The payload computer is part of that.
The task of the payload computer is to manage and control all scientific instruments. A month ago, this computer no longer received the ‘keep-alive’ signal; this is a standard handshake between the payload computer and the telescope’s main computers to indicate that everything is OK. When that signal failed to materialize, all scientific instruments were automatically placed in a safe mode. That is still the case, which means that no scientific research has been possible for a month now.