Hubble space telescope goes into 'safe mode' over faulty gyroscope

11 October, 2018, 03:30 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Image    The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

Normally, Hubble requires three gyroscopes to stabilize its orientation and function properly. Unfortunately, that could take weeks to accomplish, which means the telescope will stay in safe mode until the team is able to troubleshoot the gyroscope.

NASA has suspended science operations with the Hubble Space Telescope and put the observatory into protective "safe mode" while engineers troubleshoot problems with one of the spacecraft's three remaining gyroscopes, used to help aim the telescope and keep it locked on target, officials said Monday. Even two doesn't present a crippling failure for the telescope.

While optimistic the problem can be resolved, he said Hubble can operate in near-normal fashion with just one gyroscope if worse comes to worse, although it would be more hard to track fast-moving targets. However, Hubble can operate in a limited capacity using a single gyroscope. As per NASA the gyro that was unsuccessful last week had been manifesting end of life performance for a time span of a year and its collapse was not unanticipated. Mission controllers are investigating the problem and expect to have Hubble working again soon. "First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic", she wrote on Sunday. The James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's powerful successor (at least, in the infrared regime), is now set to launch in 2021.

Hubble has six gyroscopes, all of which were replaced by spacewalking astronauts during a servicing mission in May 2009. The telescope usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but it can continue to make scientific observations with just one.

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"The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives", NASA said today. This past Friday night, Hubble was operating normally with two newer gyros and one older model.

Two of those enhanced gyros are now running. Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations. Assuming the team can rescue the malfunctioning gyroscope, Hubble will resume operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

NASA's decision to retire its space shuttles in 2011 means that astronauts can not service the 28-year-old observatory as they once did.

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