Major Hubble failure may delay Shuttle flight

Contributed by
Sep 29, 2008
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Well, nuts. There was a major failure in the Hubble Space Telescope electronics last night. The box that controls the detectors -- the actual cameras that take the pictures and data of the sky -- has malfunctioned. While the observatory itself can still be controlled, the cameras are out of commission.

Now, this may not be a complete disaster. NASA designs redundancy into important systems like this. There are two independent electronics systems in HST. This failure was in one, which means that they can switch to other and regain camera operational control... maybe. Side B, as the backup system is called, has never been used, so it's been sitting up there for 18+ years and never been switched on. It'll take a few days for NASA engineers to make sure things will work.

If it doesn't, well then, that's a sticky wicket indeed. The HST servicing mission was scheduled for launch in two weeks, and that might very well be delayed, maybe as long as many months. It'll take that long at least to figure out how to fix things on Hubble.

But that's only if Side B doesn't work; hopefully it'll switch on and we'll have our Grand Dame of orbiting observatories back on the air. So to speak. For the moment, the Shuttle launch is scheduled to go up on time, on October 14.

I'll have more info on this as soon as I hear it.