back to article Of course we've tried turning it off and on again: Yeah, Hubble telescope still not working

Attempts to restore NASA's stricken Hubble Space Telescope by turning it off and on again appear to have failed. Error codes were generated by the veteran spacecraft's science instruments indicating the loss of a specific synchronisation message on the morning of 23 October. The message, according to NASA, "provides timing …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Crossing my fingers

    It's not looking good. Another safe mode so soon after the last one.

    I don't like it.

    I hope the engineers will once again be able to work their magic, but the pot is starting to get low on mana.

  2. b0llchit Silver badge

    Imagine you being up there for so long

    The age of the telescope reminds me of the imaginary Spirit thoughts.

    Imagine you being up there in space for 25+ years in the harsh environment. You'd age at least three times as fast too. At some stage, you'd be talking to yourself like Spirit and your body would also fail in the most strange ways ;-)

    It was fun as long as it lasted. We may get a bit more out of it, but EOL is very near, if not already reached or passed. Good engineering, guys!

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Imagine you being up there for so long

      Imagine you being up there in space for 25+ years in the harsh environment. You'd age at least three times as fast too. At some stage, you'd be talking to yourself like Spirit and your body would also fail in the most strange ways ;-)

      For some of us it's happening anyway, without going into space.

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: Imagine you being up there for so long

        For some of us it's happening anyway, without going into space.

        Shhht! Please do not remind me!

        /me gets a stick... pokes himself... finds himself to be non-responsive. Ok, I'll declare myself EOL.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Imagine you being up there for so long

        Thankfully, they don't measure my EOL based on the ability to do productive tasks. I passed that years ago.

    2. cyberdemon Silver badge

      Re: Imagine you being up there for so long

      It's OK, Hubble. Silicon Heaven is real.

  3. khjohansen

    Not worth it ...

    Pity the poor sod who'll have to go out there to reset the firewall settings

    - it'll be hell getting the mileage claim past the IRS!!

    1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

      Re: Not worth it ...

      Buzz Aldrin posted his expenses claim for the Moon landing online a few years back, it was only for around $25 IIRC. The only thing he could claim for was using his private car from his home to Edwards. Then he flew a gov plane to Cape Kennedy, gov spacecraft to the moon and back, gov helicopter to the USS Hornet and another gov plane back to Edwards. No mileage payable for the government vehicles.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Not worth it ...

        But at least he didn't have to pay for the fuel while using the government vehicles!

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Not worth it ...

          Or the insurance damage.

          Imagine the paperwork for disposing of an entire Saturn V, a service module, a Lunar lander etc

          Initial here, here and here.

          Now where's the rest of it ?

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: Not worth it ...

            I'm guessing that returning the launch vehicle to the pad, with a full tank, was not in the hire contract.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Not worth it ...

              But it's government kit, so the paperwork to dispose of it must weigh more than the kit

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: Not worth it ...

                Would have been cheaper to stack the government paperwork and just climb to the Moon.

                Although possibly not quite so bad back then. On 13 Minutes to the Moon* they talked about the first contract for the Apollo Guidance Computer (I think it was the first for the whole program). IIRC with MIT, and it's only about 10 pages long.

                * - It's an amazing BBC podcast listen to it and the sequel about Apollo 13 where you get your podcasts.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Not worth it ...

      Can't submit mileage claim for flying. Maybe you can for a personal aircraft, since I don't own one I never looked into it!

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: Not worth it ...


        (circumstances, reasons, country you work in)

        It would count as a business trip, so any costs should be paid by the employer (some exceptions, like daily rates for food).

        Tax-wise the actual costs could also be claimed, since it was a business trip, not for leisure.

        If it was a regular occurrence, a commute, it depends on the feasibility of the alternative modes of transport. And the special circumstances. Might be a longer battle, though,until they accept the claim.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Not worth it ...

          Name one country where you can deduct mileage for flights that aren't in your own plane.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not worth it ...

        IIRC we could claim company "travelling time" for a train journey to Scotland - but not for a short-haul flight to Brussels.

  4. tony72


    If they can't get it working again, I wonder if they'll maintain its orbit for as long as possible in the hope of a future repair mission. Once Starship is flying to orbit, it's at least theoretically possible.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Hope

      Not really. Expect the first 100 (or more) Starship launches to be unmanned. The current plans for the manned version don't include any provisions for on orbit capture and repair/service work or "space-walking" like a manipulator arm or airlock. And there's no other spacecraft currently in the works that could. Even if they were to start now, they wouldn't be able to get anything remotely mission ready before HST was truly dead. Even with the shuttle still flying, preparing the service missions took years of advance planning and they no longer have the luxury of having a spacecraft set up to do exactly what is required for this sort of mission.

      If they can't get HST back up, that's it. That's effectively the end. And it's a crying shame.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Hope

        Yeah - but there may well be an opportunity with the current launch costs to do something much cheaper - HST Mk2...

        That's where a starship could be an interesting option... 9m diameter rocket, so you could reasonably expect an 8m mirror to be possible...

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hope

        What would be required to fix Hubble is a purpose built capsule that could get two astronauts there and back. The shuttle could actually capture the Hubble, a quick fix mission would have to plan for the capsule to match orbits and the astronauts to do an untethered space walk to the Hubble. Essentially Gemini level technology. It would be doable but very risky.

        Even then you can't refuel it so it will still come down in 2030. Redesigning the Starship to provide it with Shuttle capabilities ups the cost by several orders of magnitude.

        And all costs for this fix come from NASA's space mission budget which means that other space telescopes and probes would be delayed.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Hope

          A Dragon has almost everything needed.

          It has the orbital capability, and it has a docking adaptor - as well as a reasonably sized non pressurised volume.

          If you accept Gemini levels of technology then you could simply dump the atmosphere and then refill fro bottles - though I imagine that the adaptor might be a bit on the tight squeeze side for an EVA suit.

          Or we could use a remote manipulation system - they're a bit better now than they were thirty years ago...

          The alternative (and yes it would be a few years in the development) is one I've mentioned before:

          Use the "trunk" space to house a robotic arm - there's your coupling to hubble.

          Additionally have an airlock - possibly inflatable - in there to attach to the docking hatch.

          There are seven seats in a crew dragon, so you could have a couple of EVA suits and a reasonable crew.

          The arm and airlock would obviously be single use...

          Of course the other thing to consider is that the F9 standard fairing is 2.6m internal diameter, that's enough for the HST primary mirror already (2.4m), and we're clearly comfortable stacking mirrors and rearranging them in space (see JWST) (Atlas V, Delta IV, and Ariane V also fit the bill here by the way).

          So it could be cheaper to not even wait for starship - just use a current commercial launch vehicle and a new set of flight hardware. Given the comparative accessibility of stuff in LEO, and the advances in remote manipulation in the last thirty years we could probably make it serviceable without astronauts in orbit.

          How much would a new HST cost (original was $2B at launch)? Well, the launch cost would be nearly an order of magnitude lower than a shuttle (~$450m/launch for the shuttle, ~$50m for an F9)...

          But the real costs were in the technologies developed for the HST, and those are much more "solved" problems now - To rebuild with modern compute, reaction wheels, sensors etc... would be substantially cheaper, and more estimate-able, since there are no novel technologies required (though it's still a bit more complicated than lego).

          Then the question is... is it worth it to "just" replace an aging instrument... It might not be, the incremental cost between HST2 with a 2.4m mirror (i.e. a replacement) and a 10m mirror (i.e. an upgraded replacement) might be small enough that it's worth doing something new.

          Or we could simply let it hang out, as a future museum piece - it's got to be one of the easiest objects to keep in a safe orbit, it's got a designed grappling point after all.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Hope

            Next gen hubble is basically the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope currently in development. Not exactly a direct replacement for hubble as NGRST will be a wide field scope (so wider angle image, a bit like a shorter focal length camera lens). NASA theoretically already has another spare spy satellite bus lying around to build another Hubble class telescope on (HST is also strongly based on the previous generation of spy satellites), but the costs of building it are not in budget.

    2. fishman

      Re: Hope

      As I understand it the cost of sending the shuttle up to repair Hubble was similar to building a new Hubble and launching it into space. Sort of makes sense when a shuttle launch cost $1B or so.

      1. X5-332960073452

        Re: Hope

        But, if you have to launch the 'new' HST, does that not cost the same as sending a repair misson?

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Hope

          Depends on the launch requirements.

          Both would take a dedicated launch - but what is the repair, how long is it likely to last.

          Compare that with potential improvements from an HST2 (that's a better use of funds than HS2 anyway)...

    3. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Hope

      Well, as high as it is, it's going to be up there for at least a century. No need to "maintain" the orbit.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Hope

        Probably nearer 20years

        Unfortunately it's orbit was at the limit of shuttle so can only hit the tip of Florida ( or foreigners)

      2. tony72

        Re: Hope

        It's in a low earth orbit, at a lower altitude than StarLink satellites. As I recall, there is enough atmosphere at that altitude that StarLink satellites would deorbit themselves in just a few years if they failed, it's one of the arguments for why it's okay launch thousands of them up there without potentially creating a massive space debris issue. So I don't think the HST will be staying up there for a century.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Hope

          The starlink satelites are also flimsy and have large surface area of solar panels and antennae

          Hubble is a school bus with a block of concrete in one end, it's going to come down largely one piece and make a hole.

          Fortunately nobody with any sort of retaliatory capability lives in the tropics.

        2. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Hope

          "It's in a low earth orbit, at a lower altitude than StarLink satellites. As I recall, there is enough atmosphere at that altitude that StarLink satellites would deorbit themselves in just a few years"

          Not that simple. Nothing ever is it seems. Last I looked, there were to be three batches of Starlink satellites. One batch (most of the satellites) to have perigee around 330km, a second batch around 550km (comparable to Hubble) and a third batch around 1000km. It's the low orbit birds that give (some?) users lower latency, but burn up quickly. But that really is (if they are approved) the majority of them.

          Hubble is expected to reenter in the mid 2030s. Presumably it could be moved to a higher orbit before then if it is still working. That probably doesn't require a manned mission.

          Depending on what's wrong with HST, I wouldn't ignore the possibility of one or more unmanned repair mission(s). I think that we're a long way from robots that can do everything that humans can. OTOH, we can make robots that can do many straightforward mechanical jobs and whose operation can be tweaked a bit remotely. And if (when) things don't go according to plan, you can probably simply stop and think things over without having to worry about problems like running out of Oxygen. And you don't have to bring robots home safely after the repair.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Hope

            You don't need autonomous robots, just remote manipulators, and we're pretty good at those now.

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Hope

            Problem is that HST wasn't really made to be easily serviceable at the best of times. It's certainly not designed in a way that would be conducive enough to a robotic mission (autonomous or remote control) to get it to make sense

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Hope

              I'd have thought that a few humanoid torso remote manipulators could do everything that an astronaut could, but be stronger, and less clumsy, and stay on eva indefinitely.

              Give them four arms as well and you can hold on pretty tight.

          3. adam 40 Silver badge

            Re: Hope

            With any luck then Hubble might take out a few hundred Starliks on its way down,,,,

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I'm going to scream and scream and scream

    until they fix it.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: I'm going to scream and scream and scream

      In space, nobody can hear you

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I'm going to scream and scream and scream

        I'm not so dumb as to scream at Hubble when I can break into a nice air conditioned office and let lose on the accountants responsible!

  6. Potemkine! Silver badge

    So it's a NTP problem?

    1. X5-332960073452

      Nah, DNS or BGP

      1. pavel.petrman

        It used to be "It's always DNS", right until people started to BGPing their DNSes out of reachable network.

  7. Joe Dietz


    A crew dragon with a small arm/platform in the trunk might be viable. Not sure how much space would exist for replacement parts after that... but SpaceX sort of proved they could do the orbit and duration on the inspiration 4 mission. Lacking an airlock it would be back to classic 'vent the cabin' sort of EVAs from the 60s of course.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Dragon?

      But pointless compared to just launching a better telescope

      1. Joe Dietz

        Re: Dragon?

        Not at all... You might have noticed it takes a LOT of time/money to build a telescope.... Way easier to just fix the one we have. JWST is going to be cool, but its not really a replacement for Hubble, Hubble is what we got for the visible spectrum.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Dragon?

          By which logic, SpaceX should be refurbishing Space Shuttles instead of building Starship

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Dragon?

          So you're saying rather than put in a few bits of hardware to get Hubble going again in perhaps two to five years we should wait a whole generation?

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Dragon?

            No I'm saying that if you want a 2.4m class visible scope in a leo (and it's not clear why you would) you get a commercial outfit to build a bunch of them with modern instruments and launch them for cheap on a SpaceX flight

            You don't try and limp an ancient maintenance nightmare in a poor orbit along for another few years

        3. Cuddles Silver badge

          Re: Dragon?

          "Way easier to just fix the one we have."

          Is it really though? Obsolete parts built by a company that no longer exists, staffed by people who are long retired or dead, from plans that are half missing and half filed in the basement behind the "beware of the leopard" sign. Building a whole new system from scratch may well be cheaper and easier than trying to source replacement parts for a bespoke system over 30 years old. And that's before you even start looking at the difficulties involved in actually carrying out a repair compared to simply launching an independent payload on a routine commercial launch.

  8. mark4155

    Come on you great boffins!

    Hubble has been part of our life and given us such an insight to other worlds that we could only imagine.

    I hope our faithful white coated boffins will be able to make and mend her.

    Though everything in life is finite, this includes our good friend Hubble.

    Icon=Boffin putting lab coat on to perform magic tricks from afar.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Come on you great boffins!

      Sadly, I think all the original designer boffins have long since retired. A part of the previous problem was finding the docs and then the engineers needing to read and understand how the thing was designed.

  9. X5-332960073452

    Try These

    How about holding down command. option, p and r as you turn it on, or running sfc /scannow

    According the the interwebs, these fix anything!

  10. IGotOut Silver badge

    It not getting to it that's the problem

    ..,its the cost.

    Have you seen the prices of Space Hammers and Space WD40? And that's long before you think about Space Gaffer Tape.

  11. Christoph

    Make it last until there's overlap

    It's critically important that Hubble is still operating for a while after the James Webb Telescope is fully operational.

    If they can make simultaneous observations of the same objects, this will make it vastly easier to cross-calibrate the instruments.

    So then the data in the Hubble archives can be fully linked with the incoming JWT data.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Attempts to restore NASA's stricken Hubble Space Telescope by turning it off and on again appear to have failed.

    That can mean only one thing.

    Time to have Roy Trenneman fitted for a spacesuit.

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