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NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues

09 October 2018

Hubble is equipped with six gyroscopes to orient the telescope.

"Built with multiple redundancies, Hubble had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009".

"If the outcome indicates that the gyro is not usable, Hubble will resume science operations in an already defined "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one gyro", Chou wrote.

While the telescope is not expected to be at risk of being permanently out of order, two of the four gyroscopes used to direct the telescope towards its targets in the sky have failed. The third one hasn't been performing at the level required for operations, NASA said.

To operate optimally, Hubble needs three operational gyroscopes.

The 28-year-old Hubble Space Telescope is temporarily out of service, due to the failure of one of its gyroscopic pointing devices, but scientists say they're working on a Plan B.

The Register first noticed a questionmark over Hubble's health during the weekend, when Michigan State University astronomer Jay Strader tweeted rumours that it was in safe mode "following a gyro failure".

"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. Thus, each problem brings the telescope, one of the most famous and productive observatories in the history of astronomy, one step closer to its eventual end.

If this is not possible, then the agency will begin operating the telescope using a single gyroscope with the other working gyroscope held in reserve to preserve the overall lifetime of the telescope. Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance. "Which the Astro community wants desperately". Although science operations are expected to resume fairly soon, the current issues raise concerns about the future of the invaluable scientific instrument.

Caption: A photo taken by the Hubble space telescope.

Update for 12:50 p.m. PT Oct. 8: We've added NASA's statement on the gyro issue.

NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues