Monday, 19 November, 2018

NASA’s Chandra Observatory back in action

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Kristen Harrington | 18 October, 2018, 19:59

After the Opportunity rover entered hibernation mode due to a dust storm in June, one of the Hubble Space Telescope's remaining gyroscopes failed, and now the Chandra X-Ray Observatory entered safe mode as well.

A set of high-tech mirrors make Chandra sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than previous instruments of its kind.

Now, to wrap up the week, NASA has announced that its Chandra X-Ray Observatory has also entered safe mode do to an unexplained issue that has yet to be revealed.

"Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behaviour for such an event".

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One possible reason identified last week was a glitch in a gyroscope that confused the machine and forced it to enter safe mode as a precaution to prevent any damage. Chandra is a space observatory that observes extreme objects that emit X-rays, like black holes. NASA said the issue could involve a failed gyroscope.

Officials were quick to point out that "all systems functioned as expected" in the abrupt transition, and "the scientific instruments are safe".

NASA said on Friday that Chandra's automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

As of now, Chandra is about 19 years old and this age of it is well beyond the original design lifetime of five years. In the year 2001, the space agency had extended Chandra's lifetime to further ten years.

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Meanwhile, the US space agency said that it continues to work towards resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope. It is now well into its extended mission and is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come, it said.

Chandra is one of the four "Great Observatories" of NASA alongside the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Hubble's operations team is still diagnosing the problem, and the telescope is still in safe mode. Since then, the team has been testing the backup gyro, which continues to report false, too-high rotation rates. The telescope's actions are temporarily suspended until NASA engineers can see if they can fix the issue.

Its initial five-year mission has long since expired; CXO has been floating through space for almost 20 years-with no end in sight.

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