Hubble Space Telescope Apparently in 'Safe Mode' After Gyroscope Failure

12 October, 2018, 10:31 | Author: Ann Santiago
  • Hubble space telescope fails and goes into'safe mode

The Hubble Space Telescope - responsible for capturing some of the most powerful images of deep space - is in safe mode following a series of component failures.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, is scheduled to be launched in March 2021. Hubble uses its gyroscopes to keep itself aimed precisely at what astronomers are using it to observe. More than 30 astronauts have flown to Hubble to deploy, upgrade and fix the observatory with the support of a human spaceflight and space shuttle staff. Thousands of astronomers from dozens of countries have used Hubble and analyzed its data to produce more than 15,000 peer reviewed papers to date.

If ground control can again get the third enhanced gyro to assume normal operations, the science operations will resume in a standard triple-gyro fashion.

The three gyros are expected to have significantly longer operational lives. Three of them are now considered unusable. For now, NASA hasn't offered any timeframe on when can we expect Hubble Space Telescope to come back into operation. Hubble can do good science with two gyroscopes, or even one, astrophysicist Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said via Twitter Sunday.

"So we turned it on as planned and the gyro was not reading the rates the way it should", Sembach said.

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One newspaper quoted Rachel Osten, Hubble's deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said: "It's true".

The telescope could work with as few as one or two gyroscopes, although that leaves little room for additional breakdowns.

Should engineers conclude that the enhanced gyro can't be used, leaving only two, controllers plan to shift to an alternative mode that allows the spacecraft to operate with just a single gyro. Unfortunately, that could take weeks to accomplish, which means the telescope will stay in safe mode until the team is able to troubleshoot the gyroscope.

That left three of the enhanced gyros-but one of those that had been used as a backup showed "an anomaly in its rate output" preventing it from being used to point the telescope, according to Felicia Chou, a NASA spokeswoman. In addition, Hubble would have to rely more on its star trackers and magnetometers to determine its orientation and aiming, effectively reducing the amount of sky it could "see" at any given moment.

Although Hubble uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, it can still continue to make scientific observations with just one, NASA said.

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