Hubble Space Telescope Goes Into 'Safe Mode' After Failure of Another Gyroscope

Mindy Sparks
October 11, 2018

Despite that there were of course some "excitable" headlines that read nearly as though all is lost. Very stressful weekend. Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do.

Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head of the spacecraft, shared in a tweet that the team is trying to revive one of the gyros that failed. "We'll work through the issues and be back", Osten added in another tweet. Even two doesn't present a crippling failure for the telescope.

The space agency says that at least three gyros are required for "optimal operations".

The Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990, has temporarily suspended operations because of a gyroscope failure, the United States space agency said Monday.

"Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", the NASA statement reads. It is expected to return to its normal operations after ground control performs analyses and tests.


Failing gyroscopes are not uncommon, so Hubble was equipped with six new ones (which included backups in case of failure) on a 2009 mission to service the telescope, which was launched all the way back in 1990.

The current fault had been anticipated because the gyroscope had been "exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year", according to NASA. Since Hubble's official start in 1977, thousands of people from the United States and Europe have supported the mission through building and testing hardware and software, operating the vehicle, and performing science operations.

Launched aboard the shuttle Discovery in April 1990, Hubble is one of the most scientifically productive spacecraft ever built, generating a steady stream of astronomical discoveries and iconic photos familiar to millions around the world. Until this past Friday, Hubble worked properly with two newer gyros and one of the older-generation gyros, while the third newer unit was held in reserve. Friday's failure means Hubble is down to just two, a situation that triggered its entry into safe mode. "I'm sure Hubble has many years of good science ahead of it".

NASA has convened an anomaly review board to investigate the issue with the enhanced gyro.

NASA said if they are unable to recover the malfunctioning gyro Hubble will resume science operations using just one device. It will only use one of its remaining functioning gyros, which will limit its sky coverage.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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