Hubble Space Telescope has been reactivated: There won't be any more missing messages, but here's a software fix just in case.




The Hubble Space Telescope team has triumphed once more, bringing the veteran observatory back into service.


The Space Telescope Imaging Spectograph was recovered on Monday, December 6, resuming "full science operations" and collecting data from all four active instruments. Furthermore, there has been no recurrence of the spacecraft's synchronisation issues that have plagued it in recent months.


Engineers are continuing to work on plans to update the instrument software with tweaks that will allow them to continue working even if the synchronisation message issues reoccur in the future. The update will be delivered to the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, which was restored to service as November came to a close.


The Hubble Space Telescope currently has four active instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a third generation imaging camera, the ultraviolet focused Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, the Wide Field Camera 3, the primary imager, and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. It also has a Fine Guidance Sensor for locking onto stars, which can be used as a fifth scientific instrument to measure star position and detect changes in brightness.


The Hubble Space Telescope's instruments went into safe mode for the first time at the end of October due to error codes caused by the loss of synchronisation messages. Engineers spent November meticulously recovering the payload while also developing procedures to deal with future missed messages.


The recovery comes at a critical moment for space-based astronomy, as the grossly over-budget and long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is almost ready to launch. Any concerns about the Hubble's wobbles will pale in comparison to the tense voyage to orbit and following deployment process of the $10 billion JWST, which is expected to launch on December 22.


The Hubble's resiliency and the ground teams' ability to keep the spacecraft working after the Space Shuttle servicing missions stopped speaks well for the JWST's future.

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