Engineers are working to bring the Hubble Space Telescope’s wide-angle camera back into operation after a hardware problem knocked it offline.
WFC3 was installed on the telescope nearly a decade ago during the space shuttle fleet’s final servicing mission. It’s designed to capture high-resolution images in visible, ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths.
“Hubble will continue to perform science observations with its other three active instruments, while the Wide Field Camera 3 anomaly is investigated,” NASA said. Those instruments include the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.
NASA said that WFC3 is “equipped with redundant electronics should they be needed to recover the instrument.”
Operations at NASA have been reduced agency-wide due to a partial government shutdown that’s lasted 19 days so far. However, Christine Pulliam, news director for the Baltimore-based Space Telescope Science Institute, said the shutdown “is not affecting the response to the anomaly.”
Last October, a gyroscope failure put the telescope into safe mode for three weeks. Engineers were able to get Hubble’s pointing system back to normal operations by sending up commands to jiggle the telescope and free up whatever was jamming a glitchy backup gyro.
Hubble was sent into orbit nearly 29 years ago, and it’s no longer possible to do on-the-scene repairs due to the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is currently scheduled for launch in 2021. Hubble’s handlers are hoping to keep the old telescope in operation at least until the new one enters service.