Hubble telescope will soon be operational again




through a restored backup gyroscope

The Hubble space telescope can probably be used again in the short term. The telescope went into a safe mode on October 5 after a failing gyroscope, but it seems that a non-nominally working backup gyroscope is now functioning normally again.

NASA reports that turning on the back-up gyroscope initially yielded all kinds of deviating values: according to the data, this gyroscope rotated extremely fast. Eventually, a number of maneuvers were carried out whereby the telescope was turned more than once in opposite directions, in an attempt to eliminate any blockages that caused the deviating values. The back-up gyroscope appears to function normally again after a few additional tests, so the Hubble telescope will soon be ready for normal use again after a few final tests.

The now probably functioning backup gyroscope has not been used for about 7.5 years, so there probably was some rust formation. With the recently failed gyroscope, three are now out of order. During a maintenance mission in 2009, astronauts installed six new gyroscopes, three of which are now operational.

Three active gyroscopes are the ideal scenario to measure the rotational speed of the spacecraft as accurately as possible and to be able to target the Hubble properly on targets. In theory, the spacecraft can also function with a single gyroscope, although the efficiency is slightly lower.

The wheels in the gyroscopes of the Hubble telescope rotate at a constant speed of 19,200 revolutions per minute. Electronics in the gyroscope detects the smallest movements of the axle of a wheel and passes this information on to the central computer of Hubble.


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