Hubble telescope will continue to operate with a single gyroscope

More than a week ago, the Hubble Space Telescope switched to safe mode. On June 4, NASA experts reported that the reason for this was the failure of one of the gyroscopes. Now the observatory will continue to operate on only one instrument.

Hubble Space Telescope. Source: NASA

Hubble Space Telescope broke down

More than a week ago, NASA announced that the Hubble Space Telescope went into sleep mode when one of the three gyroscopes that had been working on it so far finally failed. Before that, it had already stopped working several times, but each time the specialists managed to bring it back to consciousness.

On June 4, officials of the American Space Agency held a briefing on it. It became known that it was not possible to bring it back to life. Now engineers are forced to put into action a plan developed 20 years ago.

According to plan, Hubble will now use only one of the remaining gyroscopes for orientation at all times. This will greatly reduce its capabilities. The number of observations it will be able to make in a week will decrease by 12 percent.

The flexibility of planning observations near the sun will also be reduced, since the single gyroscope mode will have a large exclusion zone. Hubble will not be able to observe moving objects closer to Mars, such as the Moon or near-Earth asteroids. However, the observatory will still be able to continue active observations. It is expected that it will be in operation at least until the 2030s.

Possible telescope maintenance

The two remaining gyroscopes, which are “improved” gyroscopes installed during the last shuttle maintenance mission to Hubble in 2009, are designed for a service life five times longer than the nominal service life of a standard gyroscope — 50,000 hours. 

One gyroscope worked for 142,000 hours, and the second one worked for almost 90,000 hours. None of them experienced any major problems, unlike the faulty gyroscope, which suffered from problems for a long time.

Problems with Hubble’s faulty gyroscope have led to renewed talk of sending a private mission to the space telescope to increase its orbit and possible repairs. In September 2022, NASA announced that it had signed a Space Act Agreement with SpaceX to explore the Hubble restart mission using the Crew Dragon spacecraft with the possibility of performing repairs, such as installing new gyroscopes.

About a year ago, experts gave a positive conclusion about the possibility of such a mission. However, since then, both NASA and SpaceX have not said anything about specific plans. And now it became clear that this flight would not happen. The space agency is too afraid that astronauts will damage the old telescope.

According to