Trouble for Hubble: Gyroscope fails on space telescope

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Trouble for Hubble: Gyroscope fails on space telescope

Despite that there were of course some "excitable" headlines that read nearly as though all is lost.

"In many respects, James Webb is going to be very superior to Hubble, but not in every respect", said Prof.

Three of the gyros are older models that have a history of trouble after 50,000 hours or so of service.

The following is a statement from NASA that offers further insight.

Hubble, which has been observing the heavens since 1990, went into a protective safe mode after another one of its orientation-maintaining gyroscopes failed, mission team members said Sunday night (Oct. 7). Experts at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are analyzing the situation and conducting tests to find out whether the third gyro can be recovered. NASA's 28-year-old eye on the cosmos is in safe mode after the failure of a gyroscope used to help aim the telescope at its imaging targets.

In connection with the damage to the telescope interrupted his work and was put into safe mode. The spacecraft has a half dozen gyroscopes built in, and they were recently replaced during a servicing mission back in 2009. The three remaining gyroscopes have been enhanced, and - in theory at least - will have much longer operational lives than the three failed gyroscopes.

Three space shuttle missions in 1997, 1999, and 2002 repaired the gyroscopes and added new instruments including a near-infrared spectrometer and a wide-field camera.

Named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, the foremost American astronomer of the 20th century, the sophisticated optical observatory was placed into orbit about 600 kilometers (370 miles) above Earth by the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990. Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations. "It just might be if we have to look at a particular region of the sky at a particular time Hubble may not be able to point there because of that extra restriction when we're in a reduced-gyro mode". Although science operations are expected to resume fairly soon, the current issues raise concerns about the future of the invaluable scientific instrument.

Science operations with Hubble have been suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly. Two of the gyros onboard which were similar types also previously failed. Hubble usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make scientific observations with just one.

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