Science

Trouble for Hubble: gyro fails on space telescope

Trouble for Hubble: gyro fails on space telescope

That would permit one of the two gyros to be turned off, preserving its life until it's needed when the other fails.

IN SPACE - MAY 13: In this handout from NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is grappled to Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-125 by the shuttle's Canadian-built remote manipulator system May 13, 2009 in Space. But when the third one was powered up, it wasn't operating as it should be, so NASA Goddard engineers placed the telescope in safe mode while they try to figure out the problem.

"On Friday, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode due to a failed gyro - used to keep the telescope precisely pointed for long periods", NASA explained in a tweet on the telescope's official page.

NASA says mission controllers are working to restore the 28-year-old telescope.

But when the telescope's operators switched the instrument to running on all three enhanced gyroscopes, one wasn't working quite as well as it should have been.

"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.




'It's true. Very stressful weekend, ' Rachel Osten, Hubble's deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said on Twitter. The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

But after the failure last week, the Hubble is now left with only two fully-operational gyros.

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

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.

The instrument, named after astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, has been celebrated for its involvement in tracking asteroids, analysing the Kuiper Belt and documenting the nebula of dying stars. That extended lifetime is something the astronomical community "wants desperately", she added.

The telescope is known to be nearing the end of its active life, with the James Webb Space Telescope - now scheduled for launch no earlier than 2021 - slated to be its successor.


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