Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Action After Gyroscope Glitch

Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Action After Gyroscope Glitch

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in Earth orbit. Credit NASA

Further testing and monitoring showed that the gyro was acting normally, so the mission team brought Hubble back online.

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). But Chandra bounced back last Sunday (Oct. 21), after its handlers established a new gyroscope configuration. Such devices are needed to keep the telescope in the right direction during observations.

However, the backup incorrectly returned rotation rates that were far in excess of the actual rates.

A gyroscope is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning, which is necessary to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

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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 team wasn't done there, though. Earlier this month NASA revealed that the Hubble was experiencing some unexpected downtime after one of its gyroscopes failed and the backup gyro returned weird readings.

More steps were taken that same day.

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which also went to safe mode a few days after Hubble, has also returned to normal operations.

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By late Friday, Hubble successfully completed maneuvers to get on target for the first science observations and collected its first science data since October 5, NASA said.

Hubble has a total of six gyroscopes, three of which need to be functional for the scope to work at maximum efficiency.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has made more than 1.3 million observations of stars, galaxies, black holes and other celestial targets. Spacewalking shuttle astronauts replaced all six in 2009.

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