Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

NASA is working to resume operations on the Hubble Space Telescope after one of the spacecraft's gyroscope's failed. The three gyroscopes still in operation (including the backup that is now malfunctioning) are of a newer type, and are expected to live five times as long as the older ones, which last four to six years.The team expects Hubble to continue doing science well into the 2020s and to have years of overlap with its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2021.

Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during a Servicing Mission in 2009.

After one of the three gyroscopes failed, Hubble has entered the safe mode. That wasn't surprising, says Hubble senior project scientist Jennifer Wiseman of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Even so, The Hubble Space Telescope is able to go back to work since it can work with only 2 gyroscopes.

For nearly a year, the gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior, and its failure was not unexpected; another two gyros of the same type had already failed.


The remaining three gyroscopes available for use have been technically improved, and for this reason, they are expected to work relatively longer. 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. 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.

So due to this, all the operations related to science have been suspended with Hubble telescope. Two of these advanced gyroscopes are now working. The Anomaly Review Board is investigating the issue further and should have a decision soon. The test analysis results indicate that gyro is not usable then it will resume the science operations in the reduced gyro mode as it will be using one gyro for this.

During Hubble's early years the gyroscopes died often, and replacing them was one of the main tasks of servicing missions. Hubble can operate with just two gyroscopes if necessary, as it did from 2005 to 2009 while waiting for astronauts to come fix it. But once more, astronomers are optimistic about Hubble's chances of recovery.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in the year 1990 into low Earth orbit and until now remained in operation.

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