It’s only been a few months since the Hubble Space Telescope returned to normal operations. In October normal operations resumed after a glitch with the gyroscope on the telescope forced it into safe mode. NASA has now announced that Hubble has another serious glitch that has left one of the cameras onboard unusable.
The problem is with the Wide Field Camera 3 and occurred on January 8 at 12:23 pm EST according to NASA. Exactly what caused the glitch is a mystery as NASA offered no details. What we do know is that the problem was caused by hardware and Hubble had redundancy built in to address this specific failure.
NASA says that switching to the backup hardware will get the telescope running again. No timeframe was offered on how long the switch to backup hardware will take to get Hubble back online. One challenge is that part of the government is still shut down and that shutdown has impacted NASA.
Hubble has helped make some amazing discoveries since it was launched in 1990. However, Hubble has had its share of issues. The only reason Hubble is still operating today is the five in-space service mission that were carried out when the US was operating the space shuttle fleet.
Interestingly in-space service mission five is the one that installed the Wide Field Camera 3 that has failed; that service mission was in 2009. NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted that failures of this sort are “bound to happen from time to time” with complex space systems.