Hubble Space Telescope March 28th, 2017 team one

DMAIC process evaluation on the Hubble Telescope


What is Hubble and its purpose?

  • scientists wanted a clear look at stars and galaxies
  • How big is the universe? How old is it?How do galaxies evolve? Are there other planets?

Significance of Hubble

  • 10 times more powerful than any other telescope
  • Improve accuracy in measurements

How does Hubble work?

  • 4 antennas on the telescope send and receive information with the technicians on the ground
  • Powered by solar arrays
  • Hubble travels around Earth and faces toward space. It takes pictures of planets, stars and galaxies

What problems were encountered?

  • Shortly after launch a problem was found with the primary mirror
  • Concluded to be a spherical aberration
  • Cause of the aberration was due to improper manufacturing process and measurement of the telescope


Details of problems

  • Mirrors being off due to the technicians being rushed by upper management. Null Corrector was off centered and caused fuzziness
  • Null corrector helps detect imperfections in a mirror and can be found and fixed by fabrication technician

How do we fix the problem(s)? Steps

  • 5 day 7 men space mission fixing the large lenses along with other technical problems such as solar arrays, and fuse plugs


  • It cost $64.28 million and an extra $86 million to fix
  • Final price of the whole project up to 2010

Analyze(Social Constructs)

Kevin Lindsey- Senior research and instrument analyst (10 years)

  • Contracted to handle operations of the Hubble for 10 years
  • Senior Research and Instrument Analysis: Managed Hubble's data and equipment data
  • Experienced social problems
Kevin Lindsey

Charlie Pellerin - Former director of astrophysics

  • Led NASA to spend 1.5 decades and about $3 billion on failed project
  • Instead of crumble under pressure and embarrassment, Pellerin used his resources to fix Hubble
  • Awarded NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal
  • Pellerin thought there was no way he had anything to do with flawed mirror


  • Technical failure
  • Leadership failure
  • Culture surrounding the project

Similar scenarios

  • Challenger explosion-Technical people look for technical answers. Ignored review board’s findings of social shortfall
  • Social context in which airline pilots operating together have an impact on safety.

Outcome of Social Issues

  • Technical error related to the null corrector used to test HST’s aspheric mirror
  • Technician under stress from management worried about schedule and cost.
  • After mirror was fabricated, it was tested using another device and was indicated “incorrect”
  • Team assumed error occurred during final testing due to sagging under gravity

When a project is over budget management tends to blame the workers



  • Space Telescope Operations Control Center (STOCC)
  • Space Telescope Science Institute (STScl)


  • Instrument replacement
  • Systems and software failures
  • Self Sustaining equipment
  • Fully automated systems
  • Management hierarchy / politeness

Visions 2000 Control Center System

•Reduce development and operation cost for the remainder of HST lifecycle.

•Integrated ground system geared toward autonomous operation

•Provide common data source of telemetry data for all HST subsystems

•GUI allows easy access to data archives (less training, fewer mistakes, fewer hours

Would we change anything?

  • Ensure 20 year life span of parts for HST
  • Pre-emptively plan for servicing
  • Perform cost analysis early into deployment of HST
  • Employ automation early into design cycle.
  • Encourage interaction of varying disciplines


Garner, Robert. (2008, Nov 25). Mission to Hubble. Retrieved from

Garner, Robert. (2015, July 30). Hubble Servicing Missions Overview. Retrieved from

Garner, Robert. (2017, Jan 31). Hubble Mission Operations. Retrieved from

Miebach, Manfred P. (1998, May 26). Hubble Space Telescope: cost reduction by re-engineering telemetry processing and archiving. Retrieved from

Myers, J.D. (2012, Feb 06). Historical Timeline. Retrieved from

Myers, J.D. (2012, Feb 06). Spotting Hubble in the Sky. Retrieved from

Pearce, Rohan. (2012, March 29). What went wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope (and what managers can learn from it). Retrieved from

Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Public Outreach. Spacecraft Systems. Retrieved from

Stanley, Peg. (1993, Nov 01). Hubble Space Telescope first servicing mission and observatory recommissioning. Retrieved from

Thomson, Shaun R. (1996, Nov 11). Incorporation of molecular adsorbers into future Hubble Space Telescope instruments. Retrieved from

Wilson, Jim. (2009, April 17). Hubble Engineering Careers. Retrieved from

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