NASA has temporarily suspended all ongoing scientific missions of the Hubble Space Telescope following a gyro glitch that has impacted its normal operations. The issue arose on November 19 when one of the three gyroscopes on the telescope provided inaccurate readings, prompting the system to enter safe mode.
Despite initial resolutions by the operations team, the faulty gyro continued to cause disruptions, triggering additional instances of safe mode on November 21 and November 23. Although NASA managed to restore operations after the incident on November 21, the telescope entered safe mode once more on November 23, leading the space agency to halt all scientific missions until the root cause is identified and resolved.
The three gyroscopes aboard the Hubble Space Telescope play a crucial role in measuring its turn rates and contribute to essential systems that determine the telescope’s orientation. NASA is actively investigating the cause of the gyro glitch, with the gyros having last been replaced during the fifth and final space shuttle service mission in 2009.
During that mission, six gyros were replaced, and the malfunctioning gyro is one of the last three still in operation. Although the Hubble may require another service mission, which is not feasible, NASA remains optimistic about its ability to continue making significant discoveries throughout the current decade and potentially into the next, in collaboration with the James Webb Space Telescope.
While NASA has not provided a timeline for the resolution of the gyro glitch and the resumption of Hubble’s scientific missions, the space agency affirms that even if the problematic gyro needs to be disabled, the telescope can remain operational. According to NASA, Hubble only requires one functioning gyro to continue its movement and participation in scientific endeavors.
Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been a cornerstone of astronomical research for over three decades, providing breathtaking glimpses into the universe. Despite the operational challenges, NASA remains committed to the Hubble’s mission of expanding our understanding of the cosmos.