It has not been the best month for the Hubble Space Telescope. During the first week of October one of…
It has not been the best month for the Hubble Space Telescope.
During the first week of October one of the spacecraft’s three gyroscopes failed. The giant telescope needs the devices to measure rotational speeds and zero in on the things in space that it observes and photographs.
In a statement, the NASA assured the public that the degradation was expected and said that the gyro “life behavior for about a year” and, in any case, “had two other gyros of the same type already failed.”
In order to replacing it, NASA engineers raised a backup gyroscope that had been resting since the beginning of 2011. They were reinforced, first. The gyroscope began spinning even though it was not used for 7 1
/2 years. But it sent back readings that were clearly too high.
The deviation was “as a speedometer on your car that continuously shows that your speed is 100 miles per hour faster than it really is,” said NASA. “It shows correctly when the car faster or slows down, and how much but the actual speed is wrong.”
Engineers noted that the problem must have been some mechanical obstruction. To fix it, the NASA kept the telescope in “safe mode”, limiting its operation just as a computer in that mode works at bare-leg settings.
Keeping the telescope in safe mode also means “we did not do science,” Hubble Operation Project Manager Patrick Crouse told Washington Post.
The days passed.
NASA team ran test, reviewed the flight program and considered what they could do to fix the problem of as little damage as possible to their award-winning (and expensive) telescope. (Although Hubble can work with fewer gyroscopes, it usually uses three for maximum efficiency.)
On October 16, Hubbel team also tried to “reboot”, turn off the problematic gyroscope for a second and then back again. Unfortunately, “have you tried to push it on and off?” -Procedures – long favored as a first resort of technical support staff on the ground – did not work in space. Would it be so easy, Crouse said.
Instead, it appeared that the work was repeatedly repeated throughout the Hubble spacecraft to see if it would “loosen” everything that blocked the gyroscope in question.
The repeated maneuvers seemed to work with the gyror reporting rotational speeds that were normal – much helped by Hubble engineers, Crouse said.
“We always believed, or from the beginning, that gyro seemed useful and only had to make sure it was returned to a useful state,” he said.
Crouse stopped when he asked to explain what had happened in the lekman.
“At a high level, if people want to call it jiggling around, I guess they can,” he said. “But we tried to do very special activities that we thought would clear the problem. It was really not that easy to shut it down and put it on again.”
Still, there are not a lot of news to report that NASA had fixed his telescope “how to fix the router.”
“NASA fixes the Hubble gyroscope by turning it on again,” said Engadget on Wednesday.
“What did NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope fix?” Someone turned a power switch on and off, “the USA Today followed.
Crouse said the headlines were “a simplification”, but he can understand the confusion over extremely technical issues.
“It’s hard to keep everyone updated on the exact process,” he said. “I can understand that some people might have taken the easy way out. But to reflect where we are [with Hubble] we are very optimistic. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are very optimistic, we can return to science again. “
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, and since its first photo – an underwhelming grain, black and white image of some stars, due to an error in a primary mirror – it has been about delivering some really dazzling images from space. Time Magazine has a summary of the 50 best images from Hubble, but all are quite extraordinary on their own, depending on the interest of a certain corner of the universe.
NASA has developed a new telescope, the $ 8 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which will be able to look back in time, almost to the beginning of the universe. The web will be able to collect seven times the star beam like Hubble and observe the universe in infrared wavelengths of light, which Hubble can not, Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach reported in February. Finally, the Web telescope is expected to replace Hubble, which “still works fabulously but gets well in the teeth,” wrote Achenbach.