The Hubble Space Telescope is broken

The Hubble Space Telescope is broken

The Hubble Space Telescope is broken

Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed last week. According to the NASA statement, the particular gyroscope that failed has been acting up for about a year. As per NASA the gyro that was unsuccessful last week had been manifesting end of life performance for a time span of a year and its collapse was not unanticipated. The telescope remains in use, but is in safe mode while the team works out a way to fix the gyroscope problem. Astronomers are aiming to prolong Hubble's life, but losing another gyroscope makes life hard. "Very stressful weekend. Right now [the Hubble Space Telescope] is in safe mode while we figure out what to do".

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. "Everybody said OK, no big surprise, we've been expecting that for a year, let's turn on the gyro that was off at the time to get back onto science operations".

Failing gyroscopes are not uncommon, so Hubble was equipped with six new ones (which included backups in case of failure) on a 2009 mission to service the telescope, which was launched all the way back in 1990.

Hubble is now down to two working gyros and needs at least three for optimal operations. Experts at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are analyzing the situation and conducting tests to find out whether the third gyro can be recovered. Hubble needs at least three gyros to be able to work properly and it has been left with just three.

Osten also noted that the team has had a "very stressful weekend" and that the Hubble is now "in safe mode while we figure out what to do".


Hubble usually functions with three gyros, and before last week two of the standard gyros had failed (three of the six are standard, and three are enhanced, according to NASA spokespersons).

If the team can't bring the malfunctioning gyroscopes back, it'll switch to operating with one or two gyroscopes, Osten said.

'Which the Astro community wants desperately. But there is "relatively limited impact" on the overall science of the machine, NASA said.

Hubble, which is in low Earth orbit just 340 miles above the planet, was launched on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990.

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