Hubble Space Telescope Floats In Darkness After Yet Another Instrument Failure Forces It Into Safe Mode

Monday, 08 October 2018 - 10:45AM
Space
Technology
Monday, 08 October 2018 - 10:45AM
Hubble Space Telescope Floats In Darkness After Yet Another Instrument Failure Forces It Into Safe Mode
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After 28.5 years in orbit, the Hubble Space Telescope is having some issues and is taking a (hopefully brief) break from its duties. According to Space.com, the satellite went into "safe mode" over the weekend when another one of the gyroscopes used for orientation failed. There has not been an official statement released by NASA at the time of this post, but the Deputy Mission Head for HST at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Dr. Rachel Osten, did confirm the reports via Twitter in an exchange with concerned astronomers and space fans.

"It's true," Osten said in response to a thread started by Jay Strader, an astronomer at Michigan State. "Very stressful weekend. Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do. Another gyro failed. First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic." According to Osten, while the failing gyroscope was not what anyone wanted to happen, it was also not a surprise for those involved with the mission. Responding to someone who called the failure "scary," Osten said "not really scary, we knew it was coming. The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring). We'll work through the issues and be back." There are six total gyroscopes on Hubble, and now the count on how many are still functional is down to two. But if they can't get the third to start again, there are options to keep the telescope alive.



"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain," said Osten. "There isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. Which the Astro community wants desperately." A follower on Twitter questioned why there isn't a device that can make Hubble repairs remotely (repairs are made by astronauts during spacewalks, including a full gyroscope replacement in 2009). JP Burke, a software/GNC engineer working on the Restore-L project explained: "I work on the Restore-L team, which is just refueling Landsat 7, let alone repairing it. The answer is because that'd be super crazy hard. There's a reason STS-125 went there. Restore-L will help pave the way towards repair missions like that but we're not there yet."
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