Space Observatory

An ESA Mission
with Participation from NASA

Herschel Space Observatory Status Update

Announcement • August 17, 2009

Engineers and scientists are continuing to characterize the performance of the Herschel Space Observatory, following its successful launch on May 14, 2009. Testing activities are currently being performed using two of Herschel's instruments: the photodetector array camera and spectrometer, and the spectral and photometric imaging receiver.

The third instrument onboard Herschel, the heterodyne instrument for the far infrared, or HIFI for short, was taken offline for troubleshooting after an anomaly with a power supply unit occurred on August 2, 2009. Engineers and scientists are working to determine the cause and resume HIFI observations.

An ongoing analysis suggests that there was either an upset in the power supply unit itself, or a voltage drop of the central unit supplying power to it. The power supply unit is needed for the instrument to obtain science observations. HIFI does have a duplicate, or redundant, set of electronics that will be used and provides full functionality. The engineering and science team is working to understand the cause of the anomaly before switching to the duplicate set of electronics.

All other systems on Herschel are healthy and functioning normally.

Herschel is a European Space Agency cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by a consortia of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. JPL contributed mission-enabling technology for the heterodyne instrument for the far infrared and spectral and photometric imaging receiver. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.