Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Science | By

The Hubble Space Telescope is broken

The Hubble Space Telescope is broken

It is equipped with six sophisticated, high-speed gyroscopes to help it move from target to target and to provide data needed to keep the telescope solidly locked on while its cameras and spectrometers collect data.

NASA scientists are desperately trying to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, which is now pointing the wrong way because of a technical fault.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has entered safe mode following a gyroscope failure, according to the space agency. An Anomaly Review Board, including experts from the Hubble team and industry familiar with the design and performance of this type of gyro, is being formed to investigate this issue and develop the recovery plan.

Ground engineers placed the telescope into its secured arrangement succeeding one of the three functioning gyros that assisted extremity the telescope was unsuccessful.

The Hubble, behind iconic images such as Pillars of Creation (below) has watched the skies for 28 years, having launched in 1990.

But now NASA has been forced to place one of it's prize assets into "safe mode" due to the malfunction of a gyroscope used to balance and navigate the $2.5 billion telescope.

If it can't be recovered, Hubble will go into one-gyro mode, and hold the second working gyro in reserve. The safe mode means science observations with the spacecraft are interrupted while operators deal with the problem.


Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy head of the Hubble mission, said the first step "is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic".

Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed in 2009; it usually uses three at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make observations with as few as one.

"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 remaining three are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives.

Launched into deep space in 1990, the large, long orbit telescope is packed with instruments like cameras, spectrographs and interferometers to clear up mysteries of the universe. This past Friday night, Hubble was operating normally with two newer gyros and one older model.

"Don't worry, Hubble has many great years of science ahead", says Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which operates Hubble.

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