Hubble in trouble as telescope ‘suffers failure and goes into safe mode’

Image    The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

Image The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

The six gyros on the Hubble were replaced in 2009 during the final servicing mission to the instrument by NASA's space shuttle. These six gyroscopes were replaced during a 2009 fix mission to the telescope.

"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. Still, the telescope can function with just two gyros, and it could even continue observing the universe with just one. Right now, only two of the three gyros are working properly: "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".

Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.

The telescope is now operating on two of these enhanced gyros.

Though the space telescope remains in operation, the malfunction highlights the limited time Hubble has remaining.

But when the telescope's operators switched the instrument to running on all three enhanced gyroscopes, one wasn't working quite as well as it should have been.

The Hubble Space telescope is now in safe mode.

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".

"Don't worry, Hubble has many great years of science ahead", says Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which operates Hubble. According to Deputy Hubble Mission Head Rachel Osten, the single-gyro mode is not much worse than two gyros.

Science operations with Hubble have been suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly.

'We'll work through the issues and be back'.

The telescope is known to be nearing the end of its active life, with the James Webb Space Telescope - now scheduled for launch no earlier than 2021 - slated to be its successor.

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