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NASA engineers bring back Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 back to operations mode

NASA engineers bring back Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 back to operations mode

Hubble Space Telescope operating in space. Image: NASA The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC-3) installed on the Hubble Space Telescope is expected to soon resume operations, according to NASA. On 15 January, NASA engineers brought the instrument back to its operations mode.  Now, they will perform some additional calibration and testing with WFC-3. Assuming everything

NASA engineers bring back Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 back to operations mode

Hubble Space Telescope operating in space. Image: NASA

The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC-3) installed on the Hubble Space Telescope is expected to soon resume operations, according to NASA.

On 15 January, NASA engineers brought the instrument back to its operations mode.  Now, they will perform some additional calibration and testing with WFC-3. Assuming everything goes as expected, the WFC-3 may start capturing images of the universe by the end of the week.

WFC-3, one of the key instruments on Hubble, stopped functioning at 17:23 Universal Coordinated Time on 8 January. According to NASA, it was an unspecified hardware problem. The agency also said that the instrument is equipped with backup electronics that could be called into action to recover the instrument, if needed.

Before WFC-3 suspended its operations, software installed on the WFC-3 had detected some issue with the voltage levels within the instrument. The issue forced the WFC-3 to autonomously suspend its operation in order to protect its sensitive circuits from any damage.

Later, NASA’s team – which included instrument system engineers, WFC-3 developers, and other scientists – collected all telemetry and on-board memory data to determine the sequence of events that caused the voltage values to go out of limits.

When engineers checked the voltage levels, they found them to be within normal range, although, there were some errors in the engineering data within the telemetry circuits, suggesting that it was likely a telemetry issue rather than a power supply issue.

NASA engineers then reset the telemetry circuits and associated boards, which brought the instrument back to operations mode. The team will now perform additional calibration and testing to ensure that WFC-3 is working properly.

Experts will further investigate the anomaly to determine why there were errors initially in data for telemetry circuits.

Since it launching in 1990, Hubble has received several upgrades, including the fourth servicing mission of 2009 (SM-4), in which the now-malfunctioning WFC-3 was installed.

NASA says the Hubble’s other three instruments – the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph – are performing normally.

According to the space agency, the current partial shutdown of the US government does not affect flight operations of Hubble Space Telescope.

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