Space telescope Hubble has failed

Ismael LynchOct 11, 2018

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.

Space-watchers have been nervously watching that bit of space occupied by the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA tries to diagnose a problem with its gyroscopes.

Hubble entered the safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes, actively being used to point and steady the telescope, failed.

"Broken gyro worked badly for about a year, and its failure was not a surprise". It's been peering into the depths of space for almost three decades now, and while it's had a few hiccups in the past, it's always managed to push through them and continue providing humanity with unbelievable observations.

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

It said Hubble went into "safe mode" on Friday because of the failure of another of the six gyroscopes used to orient the telescope. Exhibiting end-of-life behavior for about a year, the gadget actually exceeded expectations. This marks the third of those six gyroscopes to fail.

Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy head of the Hubble mission, said it had been a "very stressful weekend".

With the shuttle fleet retired and no chance to make any additional repairs or upgrades in orbit, NASA earlier developed "control laws" that would allow Hubble to operate with two gyros or even just one.

Hubble is now down to two working gyros and needs at least three for optimal operations.

"If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration", NASA said in a statement on Monday.

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's not a hard decision, @astrogrant: the plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain". That gyro, which had been powered down, is not "performing at the level required for operations", according to spacecraft telemetry after it was commanded to turn on.

NASA's decision to retire its space shuttles in 2011 means that astronauts can not service the 28-year-old observatory as they once did.

Caption: A photo taken by the Hubble space telescope.

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