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Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure

12 October 2018

Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed last week.

However, if we look back, we must say that since it launched into orbit in 1990, at 500 kilometres above the surface of the Earth, it has made nearly one and a half million observations and has located three quarters of the exoplanets we know today, amounting to about 4000. The Hubble Space Telescope was designed with several redundancies in the instance of inevitable part failure.

One of NASA's most successful telescopes is in a precarious situation after a critical piece failed.

Space Telescope in safe mode after gyroscope fails; science operations shut till tests finishedNASA's Hubble Space Telescope has entered safe mode, following the failure of another gyroscope, but its science operations have been suspended, the United States space agency said.

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In 2009, Hubble got six fresh gyros during Servicing Mission-4.

After the failure, NASA powered up the enhanced gyro kept in reserve. The analysis of them shows that telemetry shows that it was not performing at the level it was programmed for. As a result, Hubble remains in safe mode for now.

"Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", the NASA statement reads. Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

An Anomaly Review Board, including experts from the Hubble team, and industry familiar with the design and performance of this type of gyro, is being formed to investigate the issue and develop a recovery plan. However, if the problem can not be solved, the mission will continue in a pre-defined "reduced gyro" mode using just a single gyro. However, this would severely limit the sky covered by the telescope at any given time and restrict the data collected.

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According to BBC News, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is Hubble's designated successor, but it has experienced a series of delays and will not launch until 2021, at the earliest. In 2009, astronauts replaced all six gyroscopes on the telescope-the veteran. However, the power backup failed in 2007.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a serious pointing problem.

Interesting Engineering will continue to follow this story and update it as more information becomes available.

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Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure