Hubble Space Telescope back to 'normal operations,' NASA says

Hubble Space Telescope back to 'normal operations,' NASA says

Hubble Space Telescope back to 'normal operations,' NASA says

After its remaining backup gyroscopes malfunctioned, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode while scientists from ground control figure out what to do next.

The Hubble Space Telescope - one of NASA's most reliable and important pieces of space hardware - has had a rough couple of weeks.

The iconic scope resumed normal operations Friday (Oct. 26) after a three-week hiatus caused by issues with two orientation-maintaining gyroscopes, NASA officials announced in an update Saturday (Oct. 27).

Although the powerful telescope's human operators successfully activated a backup gyro the next day, that device returned incorrect rotation rates.

With three working gyros, Hubble is able to perform normal science observations. "We can do Hubble-quality science, in a smaller fraction of the sky, when we go to one-gyro mode", said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division, during an October 22 meeting of the agency's Astrophysics Advisory Committee. The instrument is responsible for stabilizing and pointing the telescope to a certain direction for long periods of observation.

The Saturday release explained that during the prior week, an operations team ordered the telescope to move in different ways "and switched the gyro between different operational modes, which successfully cleared what was believed to be blockage between components inside the gyro that produced the excessively high rate values".

The backup gyro, while functioning, was returning inaccurate turning rates. The telescope experienced similar issues in the past but, in 2009, spacewalking shuttle astronauts installed six new gyros in the orbiting observatory. Chandra is back up working again and scanning the skies.

"Late Friday, the team began the process to restore the scientific instruments to standard operating status", the space agency added. NASA will continue to observe and fine-tune the performance of the gyroscope configuration as necessary.

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