Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Hubble Operations Suspended While NASA Investigates Gyro Issue

Hubble Operations Suspended While NASA Investigates Gyro Issue

And the Kepler space telescope, which has discovered about 70 percent of the confirmed 3,800 exoplanets to date, is running so low on fuel that its handlers recently shut it off, to make sure it has enough propellant left to orient itself toward Earth and beam its latest data haul back to Earth next week. As a result, Hubble is in so-called safe mode with non-essential systems turned off. It's been peering into the depths of space for almost three decades now, and while it's had a few hiccups in the past, it's always managed to push through them and continue providing humanity with unbelievable observations.

On Monday, NASA tweeted: "The Hubble team is working to resume science after Hubble entered safe mode due to 1 of 3 gyros failing".

Three of the gyros are older models that have a history of trouble after 50,000 hours or so of service. 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. The safe mode means science observations with the spacecraft are interrupted while operators deal with the problem.

'First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic'.

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"While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities".

"Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", NASA added.

The six gyros on the Hubble were replaced in 2009 during the final servicing mission to the instrument by NASA's space shuttle. As recently as past year, Webb was scheduled for launch in 2018, but a series of engineering setbacks and missteps has delayed liftoff until 2021 at the earliest. 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. The remaining three available for use are technically enhanced, and, therefore, are expected to have significantly longer operational lives. Assuming the team can rescue the malfunctioning gyroscope, Hubble will resume operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

If it eventually comes to that, the plan would be to skip the two-gyro mode and go directly to single-gyro control to preserve the life of the remaining unit.

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