More trouble with the Hubble

February 4, 2009 6:06:08 PM PST
NASA's efforts to get the ailing Hubble Space Telescope working again have hit a snag, and engineers are trying to figure out their next step. Officials had hoped to have the 18-year-old observatory back in business Friday, after it stopped sending pictures three weeks ago. But a pair of problems cropped up Thursday, and now recovery operations are on hold.

Flight controllers at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., began the lengthy process of restoring data transmission on Wednesday. Everything was going well, until late Thursday afternoon.

The problems involved one of Hubble's cameras and the command and data-handling system for science instruments, said NASA spokeswoman Susan Hendrix. That system failed late last month and prevented the telescope from capturing and beaming down data used to create the stunning pictures of the cosmos for which Hubble is known.

Because of the breakdown, NASA delayed its final Hubble repair mission by shuttle astronauts that was set for October. The mission won't happen until at least February, possibly later.

The recovery efforts involved switching to a backup channel for the command and data-handling system that had been dormant since the telescope was launched in 1990.

Hendrix said it was too soon to know the severity of the latest trouble.

"If it's a commanding error and they figure it out, then they can bring it back up," Hendrix said. "But if it's more serious, they're going to need a little more time to troubleshoot."

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