By NASA // December 9, 2020


On November 23, 2020, the high-resolution camera onboard NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory officially resumed full scientific operations. (photo by NASA)

(NASA) – On November 23, 2020, the high-resolution camera onboard NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory officially resumed full scientific operations.

This follows an anomaly involving the electronics of the HRC which was first detected in August 2020.

After a switch to emergency electronics in September and a systematic study of the performance of the HRC with the updated configuration, the anomaly is now resolved.

From late September to early November, teams from the Chandra X-ray Center Operations Control Center subjected the HRC to a series of tests to assess the detector’s operation and determine its performance.

This included taking observations from well-known sources to ensure that systems such as electronics, communications, and data collection were performing as expected. Several different teams analyzed the data to show that the performance of the HRC is excellent.

While the HRC was undergoing testing this fall, Chandra’s other instrument, the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrograph, continued to make scientific observations and collect data.

During the testing phase, the HRC was used to observe targets in our solar system and across the Milky Way. With the return of the HRC online, the scientific community can once again use the full capabilities of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

HRC performance testing was conducted by the CXC HRC operations team and the HRC Instrument principal investigator team, with support from the engineering teams.

The anomaly investigation with the original HRC electronics is ongoing and is being carried out by the CXC Operations and IPI teams, the Flight Operations team, Marshall Space Flight Center and Northrup Grumman.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Chandra X-ray Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls science and flight operations from Cambridge and Burlington, Massachusetts.

Update September 17: NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has returned to science operations as teams work to resolve a high-resolution camera anomaly that occurred on August 24.

After isolating an issue with electronics in use since launch in 1999 (much longer than the mission’s 5-year design life), the team activated the camera’s back-up electronics assembly.

On September 7, the team activated the HRC shield, which tracks radiation levels to protect both the HRC and Chandra’s advanced CCD imaging spectrometer from damage.

After confirming that the shield was working and that additional safeguards against radiation damage were in place, Chandra resumed a full program of scientific observations on September 12 using ACIS, which is used for approximately 95% of the observations of Chandra.

Chandra’s science instrument and engineering teams continue to analyze the HRC anomaly and work to return the camera to normal science operations.

Chandra is now well on its way to its extended mission and is funded until 2025 with options for extension until 2030.


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