Hubble, which has been observing the heavens since 1990, went into a protective safe mode after another one of its orientation-maintaining gyroscopes failed, mission team members said Sunday night (Oct. 7). "Very stressful weekend. Right now [the Hubble Space Telescope] is in safe mode while we figure out what to do".
The 28-year-old Hubble space telescope has temporarily suspended operations because of a gyroscope failure. Until the problem has been fixed, the telescope has been put into 'safe mode, ' suspending its scientific experiments.
It's crucial that Hubble remain operational for at least the next few years, because its replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, has been delayed until at least 2021.
The Hubble Space Telescope sports six high-speed gyroscopes which help it accurately aim and move from target to target while keeping it in a fixed position.
"The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives", NASA said today.
Hubble could potentially function with just two or even a single active gyroscope, so the latest failure shouldn't be the end of the road for the telescope.
One newspaper quoted Rachel Osten, Hubble's deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said: "It's true". If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration. Hubble usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make scientific observations with just one.
Since its launch, the space telescope has made over 163,500 trips around Earth, more than 1.5 million observations of over 43,500 celestial objects and generated 153 terabytes of data, as per cnet.com.
The largest space telescope Hubble has failed due to breakage.
Launched in 1990, Hubble has had trouble with its gyroscopes before. The telescope only needs three gyros for it to work properly, while the other three are held in reserve in case of failure.
"Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009". That issue is keeping the spacecraft from resuming normal operations using three gyros. After this third and final older-type gyroscope failed, technicians have tried to bring the balky enhanced gyro back online.
Only two of those enhanced gyros are now running. The team is now working on getting the misbehaving gyroscope to snap out of its funk, but if it can't manage to do that the spacecraft will be brought down to a one-gyroscope mode in order to preserve longevity.