September 29, 2008

Hubble Problem Creates Shuttle Delay

The Hubble space telescope developed a problem storing and transmitting data during the weekend, delaying the next U.S. space shuttle launch, NASA said Monday.

The U.S. space agency said next month's Atlantis mission was being postponed in case measures need to be taken to remedy the serious technical glitch that cropped up Saturday night.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said after the problem was first detected, an initial attempt to reset the telescope's science data formatter and dump the payload computer's memory was unsuccessful. Subsequent testing showed the computer's "Side A" could no longer support science data transfers to Earth.

NASA staff was attempting to transfer that activity to the spacecraft's redundant "Side B" to get the science instruments back up and running. However, that was described as a complex matter involving modules last activated during ground tests in the late 1980s and/or early 1990, prior to launch, the space agency said.

The Hubble operations team believes it will be ready to reconfigure the telescope this week. If successful, the telescope could resume operating immediately.

Even so, the agency is investigating the possibility of flying a back-up replacement system, which could be installed during the shuttle's servicing mission.