Scientists Work to Keep Hubble Telescope Functioning After Another Gyroscope Fails

NASA became aware of the issue last Friday when a gyro, already displaying "end of life" behavior, went out of action.

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 2009. six new gyros were installed - three are used for maximum efficiency and three for backup. Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations.

Hubble can operate on just two gyroscopes, or even one, but that limits its ability to point at targets.

Osten said, 'The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. But it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.

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NASA's venerable Hubble Space Telescope is in safe mode after the failure of one of its gyros and a problem with another, but the agency said this specific problem did not put the orbiting observatory in jeopardy. The telescope remains in use, but is in safe mode while the team works out a way to fix the gyroscope problem. 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. "First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic", she wrote on Sunday. "Which the Astro community wants desperately", Osten tweeted. "While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA said. "Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come".

The agency, though, said it didn't expect Hubble to cease operations any time soon, as its instruments and other key components are working normally.

Update for 12:50 p.m. PT Oct. 8: We've added NASA's statement on the gyro issue.

The Hubble Space Telescope is in an uncomfortable predicament.

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