Thursday, 15 November, 2018

There's something wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope

Sandra Phillips | 09 October, 2018, 18:31

NASA scientists are desperately trying to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, which is now pointing the wrong way because of a technical fault. Two others have previously failed, most recently in April. 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. 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.

NASA said if they are unable to recover the malfunctioning gyro Hubble will resume science operations using just one device.

Failing gyroscopes are not uncommon, so Hubble was equipped with six new ones (which included backups in case of failure) on a 2009 mission to service the telescope, which was launched all the way back in 1990.

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance. "The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives".

As Space.com reports, the Hubble requires a trio of gyroscopes to operate at its optimal capacity. Even two doesn't present a crippling failure for the telescope.

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In a series of tweets, Rachel Osten, deputy mission head for the Hubble Space Telescope at the Space Telescope Science Institute, confirmed the problem.

"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.

'Which the Astro community wants desperately. But it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.

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. Although science operations are expected to resume fairly soon, the current issues raise concerns about the future of the invaluable scientific instrument.

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