Hubble placed in safe mode as gyro issues investigated

12 Octobre, 2018, 00:44 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Stunning space images taken from the Hubble telescope

A statement issued by the United States space agency said that Hubble entered safe mode on Friday, October 5, after one of the three gyros now used to position the telescope failed. The three gyroscopes still in operation (including the backup that is now malfunctioning) are of a newer type, and are expected to live five times as long as the older ones, which last four to six years.The team expects Hubble to continue doing science well into the 2020s and to have years of overlap with its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2021.

In 2009, Hubble got six fresh gyros during Servicing Mission-4. The telescope usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but it can continue to make scientific observations with just one.

The telescope is a veteran, according to experts, will be able to work in space for not more than ten years, after which it will probably wind up on the "cemetery of the satellites" in the Pacific ocean. The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and expected to have significantly longer operational lives. In fact, one of the three enhanced gyroscopes was reported as nonfunctional after the instrument was tested to run on all three of them.

NASA announced Monday that one of Hubble's gyroscopes failed last Friday.

Dr. Rachel Osten, deputy mission head for the Hubble Space Telescope, tweeted, "Very stressful weekend".

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NASA has not released a projected timeline, but they are optimistic that the Hubble Space Telescope will be in normal operations soon.

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

The Hubble Space Telescope had to be placed into safe mode after it encountered a major issue on Friday, Oct. 5.

"While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA added. This is certainly a serious problem for astronomers, as any slight variation could ruin the research and the validity of the data collected.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in the year 1990 into low Earth orbit and until now remained in operation. "That could really have been the beginning of the end", Jenkner says.The team has known for more than a decade that someday Hubble will have to work with fewer than three gyroscopes.

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