A problem with one of the Hubble Space Telescope's computers this weekend disabled the satellite's data relay system and will delay next month's shuttle Atlantis maintenance mission—the final trip to the telescope—until the crew can be trained in how to install a replacement system. The mission was expected to keep the Hubble running at least until 2014.
The Hubble on September 27 started having difficulty storing and sending data back to Earth. NASA is planning to reroute these functions to another part of the telescope, launched in 1990. The Hubble operations team believes it will be ready to reconfigure Hubble later this week, according to a NASA press release.
A successful reconfiguration will restore the Hubble's normal science operations, but NASA would still have to deliver a new backup system in the event such a failure happens again.
The Hubble was already having problems with two of its instruments—the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). ACS, which partially stopped working in 2007 due to an electrical short, is the "workhorse camera" responsible for some of Hubble's most spectacular images. STIS is a spectrograph that sees ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light, and is known for its ability to hunt black holes. STIS can map out larger objects like galaxies but suffered a power failure in 2004 and was put into hibernation until it could be repaired.
(Image courtesy of NASA)