Shuttle Crew Installs New Backup System on Hubble

NASA astronauts last week installed a new backup computer on the Hubble Space Telescope during the first of five spacewalks planned by the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis .

Last fall, the Hubble's primary computer failed and its backup system was remotely activated to take its place. NASA officials noted that the malfunction was the first to require the installation of a new system on the Hubble telescope since it was launched into space 19 years ago.

The computer, called the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit, is designed to send commands to Hubble's scientific instruments and format science data so it can be transmitted to Earth.

Atlantis lifted off last Monday on an 11-day mission focused on repairing and upgrading the telescope, which has not been serviced since 2002. Shortly after arriving at the Hubble on Wednesday, the seven-astronaut team used the shuttle's 52-foot robotic arm to grab hold of the telescope and gently pull it into Atlantis' payload bay.

The repairs and additions should make Hubble far more powerful than it has ever been. And they will enable the Hubble to make more -- and more-important -- discoveries in the next five years than it has in the past two decades, said Ed Ruitberg, deputy program manager for the Hubble Space Telescope. The repairs are expected to keep the telescope operating for at least five more years.

One of the Atlantis astronauts, Mike Massimino, has started reporting on the mission using Twitter Inc.'s social network. His first tweet -- "Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views" -- came one day into the voyage.

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

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