Primary camera on Hubble Space Telescope shut down

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Hubble Space Telescope.

The primary camera on the Hubble Space Telescope has shut down and is likely to only be restored to partial functionality, according to reports from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The camera on the telescope, known as the "Advanced Camera for Surveys" or ACS, can be reactivated but will be restored to only one-third of its operating capacity. The restoration will probably take place in mid-February. The camera shut down over the weekend, probably due to a failure of its backup power supply. It was the third such shutdown of the camera in the past calendar year. The camera had been operating on its backup power since June 30, 2006, when engineers switched from the primary power supply ("Side A") to the backup ("Side B") due to a malfunction. A review board was convened on January 29 to assess all options and to decide on a course of action. Their findings will be reported to NASA on March 2, 2007.

The ACS, developed jointly by four American agencies, was installed in March of 2002. It is a system of three cameras, filters, and dispersers which act to detect wavelengths of light ranging from near-infrared to ultraviolet. It is a system that was designed to last five years, according to Preston Burch, associate director and program manager for the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA also indicated that the other four main systems on the telescope remain unaffected and functioning normally. Research work will resume this week using those systems.

A scheduled mission to the space telescope in 2008 is expected to deliver instruments to further upgrade the capabilities of the telescope. It is not known what the effect of the ACS failure will have on the scheduled mission. Burch said in a press release posted on the NASA main website, "It is important that the review board conduct a thorough investigation that will allow us to determine if there are any changes needed in the new instruments that will be installed on the upcoming servicing mission so that we can be sure of maximizing the telescope's scientific output. We are continuing to make excellent progress in our preparations for the servicing mission, which is presently targeted to fly in September 2008."