The Hubble Space Telescope

Some factual information about the Hubble telescope. At the time of design, the Hubble space telescope was conceived as being the next greatest deep-space viewing device. It is named after Hubble (1889-1953). Hubble had dreamed of astronomy during his childhood. However, he decided to become a lawyer. One year after his practice, he quit and resorted to his real dream: astronomy.

Launched in October 1990, the Hubble space telescope was contracted under Lockheed. It actually has some spy-satellite technology integrated from the design of some earlier satellites. Hubble was designed to conduct many studies, one of the more important being the wide spectrum of light emitted from the sun. The range studied is 0-100 micrometers, which contains the extremities of ultra-violet, our viewing spectrum (which resides between 0.4 & 0.6), and the extreme of infer-red.

Hubble is designed to last 15 years, until 2005, with major upgrades/fixes every three years. If all goes well, and if funds permit, it could perhaps last until 2010. Hubble has undergone two major upgrades/fixes already. Among what was done during the first upgrade was the addition of a 386 module that was plugged into the original DS-224 computer, a device originally designed during the 1960s by Lockheed.

The reason for the use of such an old computer is the reliability it provides. Any computer device launched into space must resist radiation from the sun (measured in RADS). Only after extensive testing can a memory upgrade be conducted. That is why NASA did not outfit the telescope with a 486 (or a Pentium) at the time.

Another major upgrade was the expansion of the recorder memory from 1.2Gb (gigabits) to 12Gb (1.5 gigabytes). 2Gb of this space is reserved for utilities and engineering instructions. The rest is used to store digital images of anything photographed. These images are downloaded to Earth, and from there scheduled memory dumps are executed to allow for new information.

During the third majory upgrade/fix to be conducted this year, a new memory module that has a 486 on-board will be implemented. Also, the solar arrays will be re-outfitted with gallium arsenide modules placed on a carbon-fiber surface.

Updated: 12-24-99

Discovery flew up this week and made the computer upgrade to Hubble. As forplanned, the computer has been upgraded to a 486, and the memory banks have been increased by 6 times. Also, 4 of the 6 gyroscopes that keep the Hubble orbiting stable have failed, and the telescope has been inoperative since November 13th. All 6 have been replaced.

Sources: seminar at EAA Osh Kosh 1997, Daily Press of Newport News, VA, CNN News

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