Hubble in safe mode but science operations suspended NASA

James Marshall
October 11, 2018

Spacewalking shuttle astronauts replaced all six in 2009.

Even if that particular gyroscope stays out of order, Hubble can get back to work - while it works best with three gyroscopes, the telescope can run on just one without losing too much scientific power.

A series of space missions were needed to fix technical problems - affecting the gyroscopes among other things - since Hubble's launch in 1990.

Hubble has made numerous outstanding observations of the cosmos since it was deployed in 1990.

"The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed". Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance. This marks the third of those six gyroscopes to fail. "The one thing the Hubble team has shown time and again is it's resilient, and the observatory is very robust to these kinds of things".

The failing scope had problems earlier in the mission with "noisy" electrical signals, but engineers developed a software patch to permit normal operation.

NASA, we have a problem: one of the Hubble Space Telescope's gyroscopes - devices which are needed to keep the telescope in the right direction during observations - is not working.

The largest space telescope Hubble has failed due to breakage. 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.

"Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", NASA added.

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

NASA's preference, the post said, is to return Hubble to service in its standard three-gyro configuration. Sure, that means less sky coverage at a time.

The telescope, which travels the Earth at about five miles per second - equivalent to driving from America's East to West Coast in just 10 minutes - faces out to space to take pictures of planets, stars and galaxies to help scientists learn about the solar system.

It is named after famed astronomer Edwin Hubble who was born in Missouri in 1889.

Launched into deep space in 1990, the large, long orbit telescope is packed with instruments like cameras, spectrographs and interferometers to clear up mysteries of the universe.

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