WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- NASA announced on Monday that a serious equipment failure aboard Hubble is preventing it from sending data to Earth and NASA has to replan its last servicing mission to the space telescope, which was originally scheduled in early October.
The glitch popped up late Saturday in one of two sides of a device known as a Control Unit/Science Data Formatter that is responsible for sending data.
The hardware failed and it's unrecoverable, according to NASA. And now, Hubble flight controllers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center is trying to switch to the backup Side B to regain data relay capabilities.
The data formatter is vital to science operations for Hubble, which had been using the Side A unit since it launched in 1990.
NASA had planned to send seven astronauts aboard space shuttle Atlantis to give the last service call to Hubble in October. However, this abrupt malfunction potentially means a new repair issue for the astronauts to confront -- one that they haven't trained for and never anticipated.
On the other hand, even if controllers can succeed in switching to the backup side, NASA also wants to send a spare part on the ground up into space to replace the broken-down Side A.
But the spare unit in Goddard will require a series of tests to ensure it is working properly after years in storage. The testing work will be finished at least until January, 2009.
So, NASA decided to delay the Atlantis' servicing flight mission to at least early next year, possibly in February.
During the mission, astronauts will perform an intense overhaul aimed at extending the observatory's mission life through at least 2013.