back to article NASA goes for Hubble back-up boot-up

NASA will this morning attempt to boot up the Hubble space telescope's redundant Side B Control Unit/Science Data Formatter (CU/SDF) following the failure last month of its operational Side A counterpart which blinded the 'scope. The microprocessor-based CU/SDF is critical to Hubble's operation because it receives data from the …

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What were they thinking?

"The Side B back-up has not been fired up since Hubble went aloft 18 years ago"

Long ago I learnt the truism that a backup is only as good as your confidence it will work. Which all good SysAdmins know which is why they test their backups regularly.

Seems the scientists are of the view that because it worked 18 years ago it must work now. Which is pretty sad and probably qualifies for an epic fail.

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Jim
Boffin

Final servicing date?

El Reg says

"... the space shuttle Atlantis mission STS-125 - the final servicing trip to Hubble - has already been knocked back to next year."

Really? Has it?

Not according to NASA!

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/launch/index.html

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RE: What were they thinking

Well, as mentioned it's safer to leave things powered down in space, there's less degradation for powered down components, and the advantage lies in leaving it switched off. Switching it on and off again (to put it basically) is bad for things in space.

Back on earth, the same principle can apply, but at least you can do something about it. What would switching it on as a test a year ago have gained them?

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@Adrian Challinor

It's been sitting in a nice, shielded, cool vacuum for 18 years. Why do you think it will fail? Corrosion? There's no reason to think it will fail, other than Murphy's Law. In fact, it's more likely that it will work.

If it does fail, it's probably because it was faulty on day one.

Presumably of course, if it works, you'll be back later with a big slice of humble pie.

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Boffin

@ Adrian Challinor

"Which all good SysAdmins know which is why they test their backups regularly."

Especially as it's only a 486, remember it "went aloft 18 years ago".

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@Jim

That would be Endeavour STS-126 you're looking at :-)

Atlantis STS-125 is "under review"

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/hst_sm4/index.html

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NRT

According to the BBC....

"The failed box will be replaced by astronauts" http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7670412.stm

I do hope NASA have some nice small astronauts.

Nick.

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Need an ATV with a robonaut

Hubble is low enough for comms to be pretty quick. A quick ATV trip could have load of fuel up there to keep hubble in the sky, as well as a permenant robonaut for sensible repairs.

Heck - having a couple up there all the time could be a good way of fixing anything - given time chaning orbits is the cost, not waiting to catch the errant sattelite, and IIRC the ATV had a pretty good load capacity to LEO

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@AC

"Presumably of course, if it works, you'll be back later with a big slice of humble pie."

I think you mean "...a big slice of hubble pie" :-)

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Boffin

@Adrian Challinor & @John Robson

As you can see, it's a full week procedure to switch sides, with no science. And if somebody flips a switch in the wrong order, it goes tits-up and there goes Hubble. They've already spent a week on the engineering unit, making sure they had the procedure down.

And they originally wanted an ATV, but it got canceled. This Shuttle servicing mission is putting a docking fixture on the back so it can be reboosted or pulled out of orbit as necessary by "something to be determined"

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Joke

@ NRT

According to the BBC....

By NRT Posted Wednesday 15th October 2008 12:48 GMT

"The failed box will be replaced by astronauts" http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7670412.stm

well at least in space no-one can hear u screen ! ! ! !

/ducks and runs

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Alien

It's a trap!

You know it was alien sabotage to hide their approach and lurethe astronauts out to be bodysnatched!

MUAHHAHAH!

Wynot, it's wht we'd do?

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Anonymous Coward

"microprocessor-based"?

As opposed to what? Valves? Clockwork? Sundials? An ant farm? Space-suited hamsters with frikin' lazors bungee-corded to a wheel?

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TJ

@Andy Barber

I would trust a 486 a hell of a lot more than some of todays production machines. Would we honestly feel better if it were an E-Machine?

And we all know they will do what they can to get this thing beyond 5 more years, which was the original goal of the Atlantis mission. But the Robo-Dock only makes sense. I picture satellites that are not satellites at all in orbit but more like mobile repairmen in the not so distant future.

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Linux

@Adrian Challinor

Along with the replies already posted, it is important to remember that Hubble has only a limited power supply. Running Side B when it wasn't needed would consume power they can probably ill afford to waste. While I agree that testing backups is recommended on Earth I can understand why they never powered-up Side B in space.

On another topic...

My understanding was there were going to be no more shuttle trips to Hubble as the shuttle now needs to have a visual review of the heat shield at the ISS during each mission and it can't reach Hubble and the ISS during the same mission (due to lack of fuel). NASA must have revoked this rule at some point and I didn't notice. How did they argue that the shuttle was just as safe for re-entry without the review of the heat shield?

*** Bring back the old penguin icon ***

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@Robert

Well, if the astronauts are "walking" around in space anyway to do Hubble maintenance, would there be anything stopping them giving a quick once-over of their own heat shield whilst they're out there?

** What happened to the extra dozen comment icons we were promised? **

** Or have they gone the same way as bank share prices? **

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Hubble backup

I take it that they have checked that it is Y2K compliant...

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