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

11 Octubre, 2018, 03:25 | Author: Enrique Watson
  • Image    The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

NASA's venerable Hubble Space Telescope is in safe mode after the failure of one of its gyros and a problem with another, but the agency said this specific problem did not put the orbiting observatory in jeopardy. For now, NASA hasn't offered any timeframe on when can we expect Hubble Space Telescope to come back into operation.

Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy head of the Hubble mission, said it had been a "very stressful weekend".

"Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do", Osten wrote.

'The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring).

Hubble's pseudo-successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was supposed to already be up and running for years by this point, but Northrop Grumman's inability to do the job it's being paid billions of dollars to do has caused over a decade's worth of delays. The safe mode is meant to keep the telescope "precisely pointed" for a long duration, the space agency explains, stating that experts are working on fixing the problem.

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers. The spacecraft has a half dozen gyroscopes built in, and they were recently replaced during a servicing mission back in 2009.

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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.

Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are conducting analyses and tests to correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation. However, Hubble can operate in a limited capacity using a single gyroscope.

While the telescope is not expected to be at risk of being permanently out of order, two of the four gyroscopes used to direct the telescope towards its targets in the sky have failed.

"It's not a hard decision, @astrogrant: the plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain". "If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration", the agency stated.

Even with one gyro working, Hubble will still be able to take part in science, NASA confirmed.

The telescope needs three working gyroscopes to 'ensure optimal efficiency'.

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