Hubble Space Telescope in "safe mode" after gyro failure

Image    Hubble's image of the Pillars of Creation is among the most famous ever taken

In particular, the telescope's gyros have often failed in the past, so having one fail now is not unexpected.

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.

Hubble has been orbiting Earth since 1990, and in those decades, it has overhauled our knowledge of the universe around us.

"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.

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, Hubble remains in safe mode.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble, is scheduled to be launched in March 2021.

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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). For now, NASA hasn't offered any timeframe on when can we expect Hubble Space Telescope to come back into operation.

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 safe mode is meant to keep the telescope "precisely pointed" for a long duration, the space agency explains, stating that experts are working on fixing the problem.

"Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do", Osten wrote. The three remaining gyroscopes have been enhanced, and - in theory at least - will have much longer operational lives than the three failed gyroscopes.

Astronauts on a space shuttle servicing mission in 2009 replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes, but NASA no longer has the option of sending a shuttle for repairs.

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

If not, the spacecraft will simply move on, running a "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one spinning wheel. But Hubble will still be able to do some useful science, and dropping down to one gyro instead of two effectively doubles its lifespan.

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