Hubble Space Telescope Bounces Back from Glitches
Credit: NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope appears to be in good health after weeks of troubleshooting following a debilitating glitch that thwarted its ability to beam cosmic images back to Earth, NASA officials said Wednesday.

Engineers reactivated Hubble?s science instruments over the last week and are poised to release the first new image from the iconic orbital observatory on Thursday, said Susan Hendrix, a spokesperson for NASA?s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where space telescope operations are based.

?I?m sure they?re relieved,? Hendrix said of Hubble?s engineering team. ?They are just probably back to checking and double checking their work.? 

The Sept. 27 failure of a vital data relay channel left the 18-year-old Hubble telescope unable to transmit the bulk of its science data and imagery. The channel, the Side A relay of Hubble?s Science Instrument Control and Data Handling system, had been working properly since the telescope launched in April 1990.

Efforts to switch to a backup Side B channel last week met with challenges of their own, with two separate glitches thwarting the initial attempt. But a second try appears to have been successful, with Hubble engineers reactivating the telescope?s main science instruments over the last week.

The remote control fix required engineers to power up and switch to backup systems that had been hibernating since Hubble launched into space.

Hubble?s September data relay channel failure prompted NASA to delay a planned Oct. 14 space shuttle launch to send seven astronauts to the orbital observatory on a fifth and final service call to the telescope. That mission is now slated to fly no earlier than February, with Hubble engineers testing a spare data relay channel to see if it can be added to the shuttle?s cargo bay and be installed during the flight.

Hubble officials are expected to give an update today at 5:00 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) on plans for the servicing mission. The service call is expected to include five spacewalks to add a new camera, upgrade guidance equipment, replace aging batteries and gyroscopes, deliver a docking ring and include repairs for systems never designed to be repaired in space.

The final Hubble overhaul is expected to extend the space telescope?s mission lifetime through at least 2013, mission managers have said.

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