Friday, 16 November, 2018

Scientists Work to Keep Hubble Telescope Functioning After Another Gyroscope Fails

Space										
		
																	There’s something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner			@MikeWehner Space There’s something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope Mike Wehner @MikeWehner
Frank Williams | 09 October, 2018, 18:31

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. Even two doesn't present a crippling failure for the telescope.

Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009.

Scientists had already planned to reduce Hubble to using only a single gyroscope at a time once it was down to three, that being meant to prolong the space telescope's lifespan for as long as possible.

"Mission experts are taking steps to return Hubble to great science", the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a tweet.

Though three gyroscopes are ideal, the telescope can be used on only one.

NASA, we have a problem: one of the Hubble Space Telescope's gyroscopes - devices which are needed to keep the telescope in the right direction during observations - is not working.

"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.

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NASA said staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute were conducting tests and analysis to get the gyro working again. The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

Dr Osten says the decision "buys lots of extra observing time" - noting that the astronomy community wanted that "desperately".

Osten also noted that the team has had a "very stressful weekend" and that the Hubble is now "in safe mode while we figure out what to do".

But after the failure last week, the Hubble is now left with only two fully-operational gyros. The newly failed gyro is the last of that old design, and it lasted about six months longer than expected.

'We'll work through the issues and be back'.

The instrument, named after astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, has been celebrated for its involvement in tracking asteroids, analysing the Kuiper Belt and documenting the nebula of dying stars. Hubble's pseudo-successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was supposed to already be up and running for years by this point, but Northrop Grumman's inability to do the job it's being paid billions of dollars to do has caused over a decade's worth of delays. That way, Hubble has a longer total lifespan.

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