The Hubble telescope is out of order due to breakage

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 11, 2018

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been at work in orbit since 1990. Besides redundancy, three functional gyroscopes also provide more flexibility in pointing, Sembach said.

Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.

Now one of the remaining three isn't working as expected, leaving Hubble with just two working gyros and it needs at least three for optimal operations.

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

Ken Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said the Hubble team is optimistic the problem can be resolved.

On their last servicing mission in May 2009, astronauts replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes. The James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's powerful successor (at least, in the infrared regime), is now set to launch in 2021.

Hubble is now down to two working gyros and needs at least three for optimal operations.

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. According to NASA, the gyro that failed last week had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for about a year, and its failure was not unexpected.

"There isn't much difference between 2- [gyros] and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time", tweeted Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for Hubble at the Space Telescope Science Institute, late October 7.

"The first step is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic", Osten said on Twitter. And so, that appears to be an issue that we don't understand fully at the moment.

If the outcome indicates that the gyroscope is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one.

Should engineers conclude that the enhanced gyro can't be used, leaving only two, controllers plan to shift to an alternative mode that allows the spacecraft to operate with just a single gyro. Until this past Friday, Hubble worked properly with two newer gyros and one of the older-generation gyros, while the third newer unit was held in reserve.

"Not really scary, we knew it was coming".

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