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.