Is this the end for Hubble?

NASA has yet to find a solution to a computer memory module problem that forced the Hubble Space Telescope’s science instruments into safe mode on June 13.
NASA suspect the a degraded computer memory module forced the Hubble Space Telescope’s onboard computer to place its science instruments into safe mode on June 13 | Image credit: NASA/Smithsonian Institution/Lockheed Corporation

An issue with the onboard computer that runs NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope continues to persist with no immediate solution.

On June 13, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope experienced a fault that forced its science instruments into safe mode. Following a review of the incident, ground controllers initially blamed a degraded computer memory module.

An attempt to restart the module failed, forcing ground controllers to attempt to bring a backup computer memory module online. This also failed.

On June 17, ground controllers again tried to restart the suspected degraded module and attempted to again switch to a backup. Both operations failed.

According to NASA, Hubble has two independent computers that can each access any of four memory modules. At any one time, the telescope requires just one computer and one memory module, which contains 64K of Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) memory.

A June 18 update from NASA did not give an update on the additional two computer memory modules nor did it outline what ground controllers were currently working on to remedy the issue. The agency simply stated that teams were collecting data in order to isolate the problem.

This is not the first time the telescope has encountered a hardware fault. The most recent in 2018 was caused by a gyro failure that forced Hubble into safe mode. Although the problem was subsequently rectified, it signaled the impending and inevitable end to one of NASA’s most important missions.

Will this computer problem herald the conclusion to Hubble’s historic 30-year mission? It is too early to tell.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.