Science

Hubble Space Telescope Gyroscope Fails, All Observations On Hold

Hubble Space Telescope Gyroscope Fails, All Observations On Hold

According to an update from NASA, one of the telescope's gyroscopes has failed, leaving Hubble with only two working gyros. As a result, NASA put Hubble into a safe-point mode.

NASA said on October 8, 2018, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been in "safe" mode - that is, not in an operational mode - since Friday, October 5, shortly after 6 p.m. EDT. It is expected to return to its normal operations after ground control performs analyses and tests.

Astronaut's photo of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The remaining three are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives.

The gyroscopes have a habit of burning out, hence their replacement many years back, but this most recent failure means that the telescope only has two functioning gyroscopes remaining.




"It's true. Very stressful weekend".

Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.

Named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, the foremost American astronomer of the 20th century, the sophisticated optical observatory was placed into orbit about 600 kilometers (370 miles) above Earth by the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990.

"I think Hubble's in good hands right now, I really do", said Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Hubble. Astronomers are aiming to prolong Hubble's life, but losing another gyroscope makes life hard. The telescope only needs three gyros for it to work properly, while the other three are held in reserve in case of failure. Hubble usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make scientific observations with just one. The team is now working on getting the misbehaving gyroscope to snap out of its funk, but if it can't manage to do that the spacecraft will be brought down to a one-gyroscope mode in order to preserve longevity. The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, NASA said, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed. While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities. If Hubble breaks down completely before that date, astronomers will be without a space telescope.


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