Hubble’s Latest Problems May Be In a 50 Year Old Computer Design

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For the last few weeks scientists and engineers at NASA have been trying to fix a problem with the Hubble Space Telescope which threatens to end the observatory’s operation if it can’t be solved. Memory read-write problems are being seen in the payload computer, a Nasa Standard Spacecraft Computer (NSSC-1) built by IBM in the 1980’s.
The design is based on a computer first launched on a spacecraft in 1972, and it was replaced in 2009 as part of the final servicing mission, albeit with a near identical piece of hardware still using dozens of discrete integrated circuits to implement the core logic.

This is one of two primary computers on the spacecraft, the other is a space hardened 486 system that replaced the original main computer in 1999.

  1. KX36

    Hubble, Hubble always trouble,
    when it breaks you send the Shuttle.

  2. Watcher Zero

    That takes me back! I remember upgrading my 386 with a 387 co-processor.

  3. BruceEEvans1

    “Four banks of 64K of memory.” My watch has more memory than that.

  4. Albert van Lingen

    Could Dragon tug it to the ISS where they can work on it there?

  5. Derek Madarasz

    If only we had a vehicle capable of repairing the Hubble…

  6. Calvin Maclure

    She’s been a real good ship! Never will be another one like it.

  7. James Ilko

    I wonder if they added manned capabilities to the X37 and use it as a shuttle like repair vehicle

  8. HylanderSB

    SM5 to keep Hubble alive!

  9. Theodoяe Kяap

    what of you put robonaut/”fedor” in a dragon/soyuz and control them from earth

  10. Brett Hagey

    They should have called Steve Wozniak, he would have built that board with two chips.

  11. Steve Ulrich

    Despite its problems, the shuttle was still amazing

  12. Robert Powell

    Really interesting video Scott, thanks :)

  13. Mac

    Simple, just re-seat the memory modules.
    “They’re in orbit” Oh..

  14. Andy Lund

    4 x 64k memory, thats like 4 x Commodore 64! Very powerful supercomputer!

  15. Angry Doggy

    Time to call the space cowboys, they know how to handle this ancient technology.

  16. Dolwolfian Photography

    Always feel smarter after one of your video 😏

  17. Jacek Siuda

    I’m not sure that having a robotic maniplator is a *must have* requirement. Other than this, they could send a Crew Dragon with two astronauts, EVA suits and enough oxygen supply to vent it a couple of times like they did it in Apollo era.

  18. DKTAz00

    Time for CuriousMarc to pack his spacesuit :D

  19. Km S

    This problem puts more pressure on the James Webb Telescope, Hope they realy lunch it this year!

  20. Murray Smith

    Memory parity bit “stuck” high or low?

  21. Grasshopper Outdoors

    The smoke has escaped, sniff test needed. I hope they get it working

  22. Aerohk

    Can they send the X-37 to service the scope? It has an arm right?

  23. Nic McQuain

    This is great!!!!

  24. Penny Lane

    We seem to be losing iconic telescopes left and right rn :(

  25. snigwithasword

    Has anyone told them to try downloading more RAM..??

  26. Blair H

    what’s the orbital gymnastics like for having a MEV changing Hubble’s orbit to rendevous with ISS, then send it back to the original orbit after servicing? I imagine this is rather challenging as they’re on different orbital planes? Would be cool to see a simulation of this in kerbal tho :)

  27. Richard Gilley

    So that’s where all the microchips went!

  28. This is new

    That’s the kind of in-depth content Scott is known for!

  29. Sparkyplug Clean

    Ehh, I’m 41, the Hubble was from my generation. Let’s make the break and let it die with dignity. It did a lot of good.

  30. Brendan Smith

    IUE gets a mention! More IUE please!

  31. Bill Kerr

    Hubble has been truly priceless. looking at deep space it changed our view of the world.

  32. Old Man Doing High Kicks

    This channel is my number one source for a deep understanding of science stories I’ve heard about in media.

  33. Arioch IV

    I love to see the servicing EVA images to remind me of how HUGE Hubble is.

  34. EEVblog

    My money is on the power supply.
    First rule of troubleshooting: Thou shall test voltages.

  35. Steven Edwards

    Just like Arecibo…another sign of an empire in decline.

  36. Eugenio Arpayoglou

    We need to send Curious Marc up there to fix it.

  37. LazerLord10

    I just hope that none of the space flight hardware I’m working on ends up in the title of one of these ‘failure’ videos.

  38. Scott AB

    Wow, they were able to condense 1,700 chips down to 69? Nice!

  39. Jonathan Bennett

    The mission extension vehicles, they basically fly up behind it and, uh… Hehehe, yeah it does.

  40. Khuros

    Could you make a video about current computer specs used in space?

  41. Meat Fractals

    Love the new intro animation!!

  42. That Guy

    We have been trying to reach you about Hubble’s extended warranty.

  43. TheSunExpress

    Time to call up Dr. Edward Cheung & have him save Hubble, again.

  44. Dekoth-OGN

    Yet another example of why ending the shuttle program without a least some form of replacement was a terrible idea.

  45. A S

    Always so much information! Thank you!!

  46. James Delaney

    First Aricebo, then Hubble. We’re going blind.

  47. Joshua Simonson

    That slight pause after Scott said “69 chips” had me thinking he was gonna say “nice”

  48. Gary Marriott

    SCE to AUX,,, SCE to AUX !

  49. nobiggeridiot

    Heh I remember doing wire wrap on telecom switch panels. Was nice actually, quick and no solder fumes, and if you were good you could make it an art.

  50. Chris Kelleher

    So now we see why we need the Shuttle and it’s arm.

  51. Jack Brooks

    Could they install a Canada arm in the Starship bay on some kind of pallet?

  52. Torrio Torres

    Telescopes are literally some the best pieces of technology ever produced.

  53. Trek001

    There’s one wild turkey of an idea… There is still a Buran that is 95-97% completed sat in the hanger… Get it finished, refurbish the machine and there’s your shuttle right there to fix the HST

  54. papa bits

    Just unplug it for 10 seconds

  55. Stefan Mihai

    It just needs to work another 20 years, until the James Webb telescope gets into space 😋

  56. JimA Anders

    They need to send up “Team Daedalus​” (Clint Eastwood and crew) to fix that obsolete computer.

  57. Neil Brideau

    My fifty year old computer runs
    gentoo just fine.

  58. dave brooks

    How about a “Mission Extension” type of vehicle that can drop Hubble into range of the ISS, and service it from there?

  59. Luke Triplett

    Love the videos man been here since your second Ksp video and will be till the end :)

  60. Pedro Picado

    Time for the James Webb to get up there!

  61. Timothy (XAirForce) Geisl

    Check voltages and timing signals, maybe the BCU?

  62. Michael Coelhojr

    First Arecibo now Hubble…. tough couple of years for telescopes.

  63. Peter Anderson

    A potential explanation for the 27-bit word length may be that it’s actually three 8-bit sub-words slammed together with each sub-word having its own parity bit. If I recall correctly, the Gemini Onboard Computer had some similar oddball word length for the same reason. I think it was 39-bit composed of three 12-bit words + a parity bit each.

  64. Nicholas Maude

    I would’ve thought that this computer would have been replaced with an up to date computer design.

  65. My Digital Life

    Would be cool to bring it back home.
    I would go to see it in museum for sure.

  66. robert black

    Wow. This is some good stuff.
    As an older than you computer nerd, I had some idea about how antiquated the tech is on these things but ..damn.
    The Mars helicopter is facing these same hardware / software update problems and it is only as old has its launch.
    Need to figure out some kind of age hardened simple language for the future.

  67. Joseph Peluchette

    Maybe we have programming and engineering students compete to fix it there will be different brains new ideas

  68. NatCav8

    Interesting timing considering that James Web is almost ready

  69. Avos Cast

    Oh my God, 64K of memory? That’s too much for anything to ever need or use

  70. NASASpaceflight

    1:12 “An identical NASASpaceflight computer” 👀

  71. riforgiate74

    Call Frank Corvin! He might know what to do.

  72. Christopher Rill

    If only we had a next-gen replacement space telescope that should have launched years ago. That’d be nice.

  73. dreamburn1

    “International Ultraviolet Exploder” — I LOVE how you pronounce explorer! I can’t get enough.

  74. Xefe

    _We have been trying to reach you about your space telescope extended warranty._

  75. SunKing2

    So James Webb ST has been delayed a long time, so there’s a 1st generation Pentium running it?

  76. Thee3rdprophet

    Been waiting on this…..

  77. PsychoLucario

    Man I hope congress gets around to allowing NASA to repurpose that keyhole spy satellite the NSA gave to them a few years back

  78. YouCanHasAccount

    This telescope is already at more than double it’s expected design life. The biggest failure here is not the CPU, it’s the fact that JWST hasn’t launched yet.

  79. TheGreatDrAsian

    Fly safe, Hubble!!

  80. Seb Gibbs

    Its a scary realisation that our current spacecraft cant do any real work in space, only throw stuff up and connect with ISS

  81. TheMagicEye

    C’mon Hubble, you can do it!

  82. Pest789

    It seems clear to me there’s a ton of value in the physical hardware comprising the Hubble and that it would make perfect sense to continue retrofitting it, given that it’s already in orbit.

  83. kargaroc386

    I get the feeling that it might be a good time to develop an airlock for the dragon.

  84. I am Joe

    “Westinghouse engineers met the goal by partitioning the logic into 69 chips” Nice!!!!

  85. ׂ ׂ

    N i c e (4:15)

    also, i love your videos – never stop

  86. Daniel Kintigh

    I want meet the engineer who decided on 69 chips

  87. Truly Infamous

    I really hope that starship could have an eventual variant that could let it fill the role of the space shuttle. Having a manipulator and EVA capabilities is something that could still be very helpful.

  88. Stan Brown

    Thanks for providing accurate data on this. Hard to come by in the mainstream media.

  89. Mr. Smity

    You’ll never need more than 64k of memory.

  90. Draw Down Dave

    Kinda pissed I’m just now hearing about this. It’s kind of a big deal.

  91. Muzza memes

    let’s hope hubble gets back up on its feet

  92. Galactis

    64k memory. OMG, I remember when this was AWESOME. Holy crap.

  93. Bill Washburn

    To bad we don’t have a Space Shuttle anymore just in case.

  94. Liam Skeans

    Hope it gets fixed!!

  95. Harrison Spain

    I wonder how many Raspberry Pi computers just launched this morning via SpaceX?

  96. Tommy Lee

    If we had a long enough bent out paperclip we could push Hubble’s “Reset”.

  97. Matteo Dunchi

    fingers crossed for Hubble Space Telescope!!!

  98. Joe Kozak

    this is almost like a Curious Marc programme~!

  99. Lickety Split Digital

    Been Waiting for this video since I heard about it 2 weeks ago haha!

Comments are closed.