Trouble for Hubble: gyro fails on space telescope

Trouble for Hubble: gyro fails on space telescope

Hubble has carried a total of six gyroscopes - three standard and three enhanced - since astronauts installed them during a spacewalk in 2009, typically using three at once. The spacecraft has a half dozen gyroscopes built in, and they were recently replaced during a servicing mission back in 2009.

In a statement NASA allayed fears by saying the telescope can still carry out scientific operations with one gyro but that activities onboard the orbiter had been suspended to give engineers a chance to fix the fault.

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.

However, according to NASA, after the third enhanced gyro was powered back up, it did not perform "at the level required for operations". The three remaining gyroscopes have been enhanced, and - in theory at least - will have much longer operational lives than the three failed gyroscopes.

As a result, Hubble is in so-called safe mode with non-essential systems turned off, putting all science observations on hold. Thus, each problem brings the telescope, one of the most famous and productive observatories in the history of astronomy, one step closer to its eventual end.

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The Hubble Space Telescope is now operating in safe mode, with all science operations suspended, after one of the three gyroscopes used to aim the telescope failed on Friday 5 October.

NASA said staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute were conducting tests and analysis to get the gyro working again. Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do. "Which the Astro community wants desperately".

NASA was quick to offer reassurance: "Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", public affairs officer Felicia Chou wrote in an update on the NASA website. A replacement for the device, the James Webb Space Telescope, has already been established but won't launch until 2021.

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

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