Hubble gyroscope failure puts space telescope into safe mode

Mindy Sparks
October 9, 2018

It said Hubble went into "safe mode" on Friday because of the failure of another of the six gyroscopes used to orient the telescope.

The telescope's non-essential systems have been turned off - and all science observations are on hold.

All six of Hubble's gyroscopes were replaced by space station astronauts during a servicing mission in 2009, but only two of those are now functioning properly.

Though the space telescope remains in operation, the malfunction highlights the limited time Hubble has remaining. After this third and final older-type gyroscope failed, technicians have tried to bring the balky enhanced gyro back online.

Hubble needs three of its gyroscopes to work in order to continue normal operations.

The gyroscopes allow the telescope, which has been in low Earth orbit since 1990, to sense rotation and stabilise itself.

NASA said staff at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute were conducting tests and analysis to get the gyro working again.

Ground operators put the telescope into this stable configuration after one of the three active gyros that steadies and points the telescope failed.

But some have suggested another servicing mission to keep Hubble functioning even after the launch of the JWST. The failure over the weekend took the telescope down to just two.

"If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one gyro", Chou wrote. The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

"We knew it was coming", Osten added.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a serious pointing problem. The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring).

'There isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time.

"There isn't much difference between 2- [gyros] and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time", tweeted Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for Hubble at the Space Telescope Science Institute, late October 7. "Which the Astro community wants desperately". It's "absolutely the plan" to operate Hubble as long as it can, perhaps until 2025 or later.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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