Hubble Space Telescope in ‘Safe Mode’ After Technical Disturbances

Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

The telescope went into safe mode because of a failure in one of the instrument's gyroscopes, which steer Hubble and ensure it can get a steady view of space. Although the Hubble team is optimistic about solving the issue in case if NASA isn't able to find a way out, it will execute the single-gyro control for Hubble in order to preserve the life of the single remaining unit for future operations.

Six new gyroscopes were installed during the servicing mission-4 in Hubble made with the additional gyroscope in 2009. In a series of tweets and a press release, the space agency revealed that one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) that is now in use failed. The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behaviour for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed.

Due to all these reasons, Hubble remains in safe mode.

Astronauts on a space shuttle servicing mission in 2009 replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes, but NASA no longer has the option of sending a shuttle for repairs as the shuttle program shut down in 2011. While the remaining three gyros are "technically enhanced" and should be more operationally durable than the those that have failed, just two of them are now running. Like cataracts, he says, it's "a sign of aging, but there's a very good remedy."While we wait for news of how Hubble is faring, here's a look back at some of its previous hiccups and fix missions.1990: The blurry mirrorOn June 27, 1990, three months after the space telescope launched, astronomers discovered an aberration in Hubble's primary mirror".

Broken one of the gyroscopes that keep the telescope in the right direction.

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

Two of those enhanced gyros are now running. The Anomaly Review Board is investigating the issue further and should have a decision 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.

"While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA added.

Amateur astronomers have also been given access to Hubble for research purposes. If successful, Hubble will return to its regular scientific operations.

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