HUBBLE TROUBLE: Space telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

Image    The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

Image The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

NASA has suspended science operations with the Hubble Space Telescope and put the observatory into protective "safe mode" while engineers troubleshoot problems with one of the spacecraft's three remaining gyroscopes, used to help aim the telescope and keep it locked on target, officials said Monday. As a result, Hubble is in so-called safe mode with non-essential systems turned off.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has suffered another mechanical damage, losing one of the last three gyros that it possessed, which allows it to orient and change its direction.

The six gyros on the Hubble were replaced in 2009 during the final servicing mission to the instrument by NASA's space shuttle. 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.

The telescope could work with as few as one or two gyroscopes, although that leaves little room for additional breakdowns.

"It's true. Very stressful weekend".

Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head of the spacecraft, shared in a tweet that the team is trying to revive one of the gyros that failed.

NASA said staff at the Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute were conducting tests and analysis to get the gyro working again.

NASA's preference, the post said, is to return Hubble to service in its standard three-gyro configuration.

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The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, is scheduled to be launched in March 2021.

"Broken gyro worked badly for about a year, and its failure was not a surprise".

Launched in 1990, Hubble has had trouble with its gyroscopes before.

If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one gyro. If that's not possible, it can operate using a single gyro, keeping the second in reserve.

The gyroscope that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyro devices of the same type have already failed.

"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gryo mode when two remain", Osten said in a Twitter exchange. "We'll work through the issues and be back", Osten added in another tweet. Sure, that means less sky coverage at a time.

Stunning space images taken from the Hubble telescope.

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