Hubble Telescope image
NASA releases never-before-seen images from Hubble Telescope (December 2020)
01:07 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

NASA engineers are trying to work their magic on the Hubble Space Telescope, which stopped working on June 13 as a result of a problem with the payload computer on board.

On Saturday, NASA said engineers had successfully switched the telescope, which orbits 340 miles above Earth’s surface, to backup hardware, a high-stakes maneuver that began Thursday.

“Hubble is an icon, giving us incredible insight into the cosmos over the past three decades,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

“I’m proud of the Hubble team, from current members to Hubble alumni who stepped in to lend their support and expertise,” Nelson said. “Thanks to their dedication and thoughtful work, Hubble will continue to build on its 31-year legacy, broadening our horizons with its view of the universe.”

The Hubble Telescope has shaped our understanding of the cosmos for over 30 years. It discovered moons orbiting Pluto, and it proved that almost every galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its heart. It also played a pivotal role in the discovery of dark matter – a mysterious substance that can’t be seen.

The telescope was scheduled to resume collecting data on Saturday for the first time since the telescope’s payload computer experienced a problem on June 13.

The payload computer – a NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1, or NSSC-1, system – is used to control and coordinate Hubble’s scientific instruments. The computer’s programs also analyze and manipulate the data it collects.

NASA engineers discovered the problem was related to the Power Control Unit, which ensures a steady voltage supply to the payload computer, and switched to a backup PCU.

The PCU is housed with the payload computer in the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit.

The Hubble Space Telescope, which orbits 340 miles above Earth’s surface, hasn’t always functioned flawlessly. A similar repair was performed in 2008, according to NASA, when another part of the SI C&DH unit failed. A servicing mission in 2009 then replaced the entire SI C&DH unit.

The Space Shuttle was sent up five times to service Hubble. However, the 2009 mission was the most recent – and since the shuttle’s retirement, NASA has no way to launch astronauts to the space telescope on a repair mission.

There is a replacement for Hubble in the works. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is expected to launch later this year. The large, infrared telescope appears set to become the next great detective in the universe.

NASA said that Hubble will last for many more years and will work in tandem with other space observatories including the James Webb Space Telescope.