NASA desperately trying to rescue Hubble Space Telescope

Olive Hawkins
October 12, 2018

The Hubble Space Telescope was designed with several redundancies in the instance of inevitable part failure.

The Hubble Space Telescope will remain in safe mode while engineers in ground control perform tests and try to figure out how to get the malfunctioning gyro up and running again. The telescope usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but it can continue to make scientific observations with just one. According to the NASA statement, the particular gyroscope that failed has been acting up for about a year. Even if NASA stated recently, on October 8, that the instrument is expected to be ready to work soon, the astronomical community is still anxious. For the moment, NASA has left it out of circulation, since one of the gyroscopes stopped working last Friday, so aiming at any space object is more now hard. The news started out as rumors on Twitter but the Hubble's deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Rachel Osten confirmed the authenticity of the tweets. Its curvature was off by two micrometers, making the images slightly blurry.The telescope soldiered on, despite being the butt of jokes on late-night TV.

Hubble entered the safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes, actively being used to point and steady the telescope, failed.

It was only a matter of time before one of the most critical observation instruments that have allowed us to know the Universe better began to give signs of "fatigue".

The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a serious pointing problem. "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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The Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's jewel of the skies, is temporarily out of service. Now, half of Hubble's gyroscopes are unusable, so pointing in a particular direction is very hard and inaccurate. In the meantime, two of the telescope's scientific instruments - the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Advanced Camera for Surveys - stopped working due to power supply failures.Good as newSpace shuttle missions returned five times to Hubble over the space telescope's first 19 years to fix it.

2009: New lease on lifeFortunately, NASA restored the final servicing mission, and the space shuttle Atlantis visited Hubble in May 2009 (SN Online: 5/11/09).

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.

Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

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