The Hubble Space Telescope continues on its long road to recovery

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit. (Image credit: NASA)
  1. Space vehicle
  2. Summary: https://www.space.com/hubble-space-telescope-glitch-troubleshooting-november-2021
    1. In late October, the Hubble Space Telescope had all five of its science instruments go offline due to a problem with the synchronization of its internal communications.
    2. The Hubble’s handlers¬†continue to troubleshoot the problem and have made some progress recently where they identified some near-term changes that could be made.
    3. “This would allow science operations to continue even if several missed messages occur.”
    4. The team will test the efficacy of these proposed changes in the coming week, however, it will take several weeks to complete this work for a single instrument.
    5. The Hubble’s five main science instruments are the ACS, Wide Field Camera 3, Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.
  3. Cybersecurtiy implications:
    1. A problem like this is exactly what a cybersecurity attack could look like. A small error in the internal communications systems caused all five main science instruments to go offline. It will take several weeks just to test a near-term solution for a single instrument, so a full recovery will take a very long time. This goes to show how delicate space vehicle systems are and how costly they are to troubleshoot. If a threat actor’s goal was to interfere with the Hubble Telescope’s main functions, they could easily do so by inducing a similar kind of problem.
    2. I think this article highlights the massive disparity between the effort needed to cause a problem vs. the effort needed to solve a problem. Threat actors can easily create a huge problem that takes months to solve with relatively little effort. A small change to the space vehicle’s systems can render it inoperable. threat actors have the luxury of choice in how they decide to interfere with a system. There is an infinite number of ways things can go wrong, as such threat actors have the luxury of choice in how they decide to interfere with a system. On the other hand, it takes a perfect storm of many variables aligning for a space vehicle to properly function. As such, we should aim to have more robust cybersecurity for space systems to avoid the high cost of fixing them after an attack.
  4. Critical systems:
    1. The critical systems in this article are the system for the Hubble Telescope’s five main science instruments: the ACS, Wide Field Camera 3, Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. Other critical systems include the system that controls communication between these instruments and the trajectory of the space vehicle.
    2. Critical data includes all the readings, images, and other data types captured by the science instruments onboard the Hubble Telescope.