NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues

Space										
		
																	There’s something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner			@MikeWehner

The Hubble Space Telescope sports six high-speed gyroscopes which help it accurately aim and move from target to target while keeping it in a fixed position. "Very stressful weekend. Right now [the Hubble Space Telescope] is in safe mode while we figure out what to do".

NASA said on October 8, 2018, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been in "safe" mode - that is, not in an operational mode - since Friday, October 5, shortly after 6 p.m. EDT.

The telescope needs three working gyroscopes to 'ensure optimal efficiency'.

Before Friday, Hubble had four working gyroscopes, also called "gyros". As per NASA the gyro that was unsuccessful last week had been manifesting end of life performance for a time span of a year and its collapse was not unanticipated.

If the problematic gyroscope can't be successfully brought back online - and if the most recent failure proves permanent - Hubble may be forced to operate on a single gyroscope for the foreseeable future. After rumors of mission downtime began circulating on Twitter, Dr. Rachel Osten of the Hubble team confirmed that something is wrong with the telescope's gyroscopes, which it uses for orientation.

In 2020 NASA will launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, a more powerful instrument that will offer astronomers unprecedented views of the cosmos. That issue is keeping the spacecraft from resuming normal operations using three gyros.

Failing gyroscopes are not uncommon, so Hubble was equipped with six new ones (which included backups in case of failure) on a 2009 mission to service the telescope, which was launched all the way back in 1990.

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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.

However, according to NASA, after the third enhanced gyro was powered back up, it did not perform "at the level required for operations".

The plan "has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain", Osten said, adding "there isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time".

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

NASA said if they are unable to recover the malfunctioning gyro Hubble will resume science operations using just one device.

NASA says mission controllers are working to restore the 28-year-old telescope, which orbits about 570 kilometres above the Earth.

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