Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Science | By

NASA's Chandra X-ray space telescope back online after glitch

NASA's Chandra X-ray space telescope back online after glitch

NASA's rough month is improving somewhat: the American space agency is spinning up a spare gyroscope to bring the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory back online by the end of the week, and it reckons it can wake the Hubble Space Telescope soon.

Chandra makes X-ray observations of distant space objects, including black holes, supernovas and quasars.

Now, to wrap up the week, NASA has announced that its Chandra X-Ray Observatory has also entered safe mode do to an unexplained issue that has yet to be revealed.

Just before 10 a.m. EDT on October 10, the telescope automatically entered a safe configuration, swapping critical hardware to back-up units and changing direction for optimal solar panel charging. The space agency said it is investigating the issue, although data analysis of the probe indicated that its transition into safe mode is "normal behavior".

The cause of Chandra's safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode, according to the USA space agency.

NASA said Hubble would still be able to provide science "well into the 2020s". "All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe", it added.


The 19-year-old Chandra has far outlived its 5-year original design lifetime. In the 2001, NASA extended its lifetime upto 10 years. It is now well into its extended mission and is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come, it said.

Till that time, science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

Launched in July 1999, Chandra is one of the so-called Great Observatories-along with the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope. Such was the case last week with the beloved Hubble Space Telescope, which went into safe mode after another of its six gyroscopes failed. Since then, the team has been testing the backup gyro, which continues to report false, too-high rotation rates.

An anomaly review board was formed to find the cause of these issues and try to fix them.

Its initial five-year mission has long since expired; CXO has been floating through space for almost 20 years-with no end in sight.

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