Hubble is in safe mode. Science operations suspended
Hubble is in safe mode. Science operations suspended
Image Hubble's deep view of the sky has revealed an enormous number of galaxies
11 October, 2018, 03:25
Three space shuttle missions in 1997, 1999, and 2002 repaired the gyroscopes and added new instruments including a near-infrared spectrometer and a wide-field camera. 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.
NASA announced Monday that one of Hubble's gyroscopes failed last Friday.
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.
Hubble has been orbiting Earth since 1990, and in those decades, it has overhauled our knowledge of the universe around us.
The official Hubble Twitter account echoed this sentiment, tweeting that the telescope was "built with multiple redundancies", and that even though it is left with just two gyros, it can work with just one.
Three of the gyros are older models that have a history of trouble after 50,000 hours or so of service. Exhibiting end-of-life behavior for about a year, the gadget actually exceeded expectations.
If the problematic gyroscope can't be successfully brought back online - and if the most recent failure proves permanent - Hubble may be forced to operate on a single gyroscope for the foreseeable future.
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. Its successor, the 6.5-metre James Webb Space Telescope, will not launch until 2021 at the earliest.
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Science operations with Hubble have been suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly.
NASA's decision to retire its space shuttles in 2011 means that astronauts can not service the 28-year-old observatory as they once did.
Hubble has six gyroscopes, all of which were replaced by spacewalking astronauts during a servicing mission in May 2009.
Osten said, 'The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. Analysis and testing on the backup gyro are ongoing to determine why it is not performing as expected.
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While NASA says that reduced-gyro mode would have "relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", some astronomers are concerned that the reduced-gyro mode could adversely affect some types of observations, such as of solar system objects, that require the precision of three-gyro operations.
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