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NASA's Hubble Spacecraft Back In Business After Camera Malfunction

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NASA announces that the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 that malfunctioned on Jan. 8 is now back to operational status.

The good news was revealed after more than a week of trying to recover the instrument. According to the U.S. space agency, the instrument is back to normal and it has already completed its first assignment on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 17.

Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 Malfunctions

Earlier this month, NASA reported that it suspended the operations of the Wide Field Camera 3 due to hardware problems. During the investigation, they found that the instrument automatically shut down because some of the voltage levels within were not aligning to their predetermined settings.

However, while the space agency repaired the malfunctioning camera, Hubble continued to operate using its three other active instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.

Hubble Space Telescope Hanging On Nearly Three Decades Later

This is not the first time that the Hubble Space Telescope experienced a malfunction in the past year. In October 2018, the spacecraft went into safe mode after one of its gyroscopes had started misbehaving. Engineers at ground control were able to fix the instrument, which is used to stabilize the telescope and point it in one direction for long periods of time, by performing fundamental troubleshooting techniques, including a "running restart" or basically, by turning it off and on again.

While unwelcome, the recent malfunctions of the spacecraft were expected. NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope 28 years ago, in April 1990.

The Wide Field Camera 3 that malfunctioned earlier this month was installed on the spacecraft during a servicing mission in May 2009. It has taken more than 240,000 observations since then.

The spacecraft was originally anticipated to be in operation for 15 years but according to Thomas Brown, the mission head behind Hubble, it is expected to continue making observations until the mid-2020s.

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