Technical glitch hobbles Hubble Space Telescope

09 October, 2018, 18:32 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • IN SPACE In this handout from the National Aeronautical Space Administration, the Hubble Space Telescope drifts through space in

According to NASA, the gyro that failed last week had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for about a year, and its failure was not unexpected.

Hubble's success is due in no small part to five servicing missions flown by space shuttle crews, including an initial visit in 1993 to fix the telescope's flawed optics and the final visit in 2009 that replaced the gyros and provided additional upgrades. In 2009. six new gyros were installed - three are used for maximum efficiency and three for backup. "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. Still, the telescope can function with just two gyros, and it could even continue observing the universe with just one.

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance. The three remaining gyroscopes have been enhanced, and - in theory at least - will have much longer operational lives than the three failed gyroscopes.

The Hubble Space Telescope stopped collecting science data on 5 October, because of a problem with one of the gyroscopes that the observatory uses to orient itself on celestial targets. Thus, at this time, Hubble has two functional gyroscopes.

Only two of those enhanced gyros are now running.


If it can't be recovered, Hubble will go into one-gyro mode, and hold the second working gyro in reserve. "Which the Astro community wants desperately".

"Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", NASA added.

If the team can't get one of the other gyroscopes up and running, then Dr. Oster explains that they will take Hubble down to one gyroscope. NASA said that, while this option offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on Hubble's overall scientific capabilities.

Space-watchers have been nervously watching that bit of space occupied by the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA tries to diagnose a problem with its gyroscopes.

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