NASA Triumph: Science Restored on Hubble Space Telescope After Gyro Glitch

Hubble Space Telescope Over Earth

Illustration of the Hubble Space Telescope over the Earth. Credit: ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)

On April 30, 2024, NASA announced it restored the agency’s Hubble Space Telescope to science operations on April 29. The spacecraft is in good health and once again operating using all three of its gyros. All of Hubble’s instruments are online, and the spacecraft has resumed taking science observations.

NASA began working to resume science operations after the Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode on April 23 due to an ongoing gyroscope (gyro) issue. Hubble’s instruments remained stable, with the telescope in good health.

The telescope automatically entered safe mode when one of its three gyroscopes gave faulty readings. The gyros measure the telescope’s turn rates and are part of the system that determines which direction the telescope is pointed. While in safe mode, science operations are suspended, and the telescope waits for new directions from the ground.

Hubble's Final Release Over Earth

The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from the space shuttle Atlantis (STS-125) in May 2009, during the fifth and final servicing of the orbiting observatory. Credit: NASA

This particular gyro caused Hubble to enter safe mode in November after returning similar faulty readings. The team is currently working to identify potential solutions. If necessary, the spacecraft can be re-configured to operate with only one gyro, with the other remaining gyro placed in reserve.

The spacecraft had six new gyros installed during the fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission in 2009. To date, three of those gyros remain operational, including the gyro that just experienced fluctuations. Hubble uses three gyros to maximize efficiency, but could continue to make science observations with only one gyro if required.

NASA anticipates Hubble will continue making groundbreaking discoveries, working with other observatories, such as the agency’s James Webb Space Telescope, throughout this decade and possibly into the next.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has been observing the universe for more than three decades and recently celebrated its 34th anniversary.

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