Trouble for Hubble: gyro fails on space telescope

Hubble space telescope fails and goes into'safe mode

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.

IN SPACE - MAY 13: In this handout from NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is grappled to Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-125 by the shuttle's Canadian-built remote manipulator system May 13, 2009 in Space. It had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009. "If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration", the agency stated. That would permit one of the two gyros to be turned off, preserving its life until it's needed when the other fails.

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. Scientists are acutely aware of that today after placing the orbiting observatory into safe mode following the failure of another gyroscope.

But when the telescope's operators switched the instrument to running on all three enhanced gyroscopes, one wasn't working quite as well as it should have been.

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The Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990, is now out of action because of a gyroscope failure, the USA space agency said Monday. Experts at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are analyzing the situation and conducting tests to find out whether the third gyro can be recovered.

"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain", Rachel Osten, deputy head of the Hubble mission said on Twitter. "Which the Astro community wants desperately".

Although Hubble uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, it can still continue to make scientific observations with just one, NASA said.

NASA was quick to offer reassurance: "Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", public affairs officer Felicia Chou wrote in an update on the NASA website. "Very stressful weekend. Right now [the Hubble Space Telescope] is in safe mode while we figure out what to do".

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