Monday, 22 October, 2018

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

Space										
		
																	There’s something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner			@MikeWehner Space There’s something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope Mike Wehner @MikeWehner
Sandy Nunez | 09 October, 2018, 08:55

In a statement October 8, NASA said the spacecraft went into a protective safe mode around 5 p.m.

The telescope's non-essential systems have been turned off - and all science observations are on hold.

Hubble has six gyroscopes, all of which were replaced by spacewalking astronauts during a servicing mission in May 2009.

Gyroscopes are needed to keep Hubble pointing in the right direction during its observations 340 miles (540km) above Earth. The failed gyro is the last of the older ones. The telescope needs three working gyroscopes to "ensure optimal efficiency", mission team members have written, and the failure brings that number down to two (if the "problematic" one that had been off can't be brought back online).

NASA originally designed Hubble with six internal gyroscopes, but these components have a limited lifespan.

But we still have to stare down the barrel of an uncomfortable truth: Hubble is wearing out, and that 2009 service mission was the last. 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.

The troublesome gyroscope leaves two functioning ones, Space.com reports. The telescope is getting older, and that means that parts are starting to fail, but scientists are working to bring back a third gyro or work with a contingency plan.

"Not really scary, we knew it was coming".

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"If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one gyro", Chou wrote.

Dr Osten says the decision "buys lots of extra observing time" - noting that the astronomy community wanted that "desperately".

'The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring).

Astronomers have been hoping that Hubble will continue to operate long enough to cover the transition to NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope.

"We'll work through the issues and be back", she promised.

It's frustrating, of course, when a much-loved piece of technology such as Hubble shows its mortality.

Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations since its mission began in 1990 and helped publish more than 15,000 scientific papers. That way, Hubble has a longer total lifespan.