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Hubble Space Telescope restored and active following synchronization issue

After an error that occurred in late October forced it into safe mode, the Hubble Space Telescope is now back up and running at full strength.

Hubble suffered an issue with the communications between its computers and instruments on October 25, when several synchronization messages were lost. To prevent any damage to its instruments, the telescope automatically went into safe mode in which only the basic essential parts of the telescope functioned. That meant that it stopped collecting science data while engineers on the ground figured out what had gone wrong.

Throughout November, the Hubble team analyzed the issue and tested out the problems by turning on an older, unused instrument. This allowed them to perform a test without endangering the currently active instruments which Hubble still needs to use.

As that test didn’t throw up any more errors, the team elected to turn on each of Hubble’s four currently active instruments one at a time. With no more missed synchronization messages, they turned on the final instrument — the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph — this week.

“NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope team recovered the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on Monday, December 6, and is now operating with all four active instruments collecting science. The team has still not detected any further synchronization message issues since monitoring began November 1,” NASA wrote in an update.

NASA also explained that its Hubble team has a plan to prevent similar issues from happening again in the future, by allowing the instruments to continue operating even if a few synchronization messages are lost. To make this change, they will gradually make tweaks to Hubble’s software over the next few months, beginning in the next weeks.

“The team will continue work on developing and testing changes to instrument software that would allow them to conduct science operations even if they encounter several lost synchronization messages in the future,” the update said. “The first of these changes is scheduled to be installed on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph in mid-December. The other instruments will receive similar updates in the coming months.”

This was the second time this year that Hubble has been in trouble, with an issue with its computer causing it to enter safe mode this summer as well.

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