HUBBLE TROUBLE: Space telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

HUBBLE TROUBLE: Space telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

The 28-year-old telescope has had trouble with its gyroscopes before. After rumors of mission downtime began circulating on Twitter, Dr. Rachel Osten of the Hubble team confirmed that something is wrong with the telescope's gyroscopes, which it uses for orientation.

The Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990, has temporarily suspended operations because of a gyroscope failure, the United States space agency has said. As a result, NASA put Hubble into a safe-point mode.

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

At the moment, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are running tests and analyses to know what options they have to recover the gyro "to operational performance".

This was one of the rationale why NASA solicit to establish three augmented gyros on the telescope in 2009.

Hubble usually uses three gyros at a time for maximum efficiency, but can continue to make scientific observations with just one.

The Hubble Space Telescope entered into safe mode after experiencing a gyroscope failure, NASA has revealed. Hubble's instruments are expected to produce excellent science for years to come, NASA said.

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All six of Hubble's gyroscopes were replaced by space station astronauts during a servicing mission in 2009, but only two of those are now functioning properly.

The agency, though, said it didn't expect Hubble to cease operations any time soon, as its instruments and other key components are working normally.

The current fault had been anticipated because the gyroscope had been "exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year", according to NASA.

Responding to a claim that the safe mode was "scary news for the most famous telescope in history", Dr Osten downplayed the issues.

'We'll work through the issues and be back'. Assuming the team can rescue the malfunctioning gyroscope, Hubble will resume operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

She explained that there are plans in place to deal with the eventuality of the HST dropping down to a one-gyro mode when two remained. It has no overall impact on the scientific capabilities of the decades-old space telescope but would mean limited sky coverage for scientists.

Till then science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

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