How Do You Fix The Multibillion-Dollar Hubble Space Telescope? By Turning It Off And On Again


Two weeks after the Hubble Space Telescope was placed into safe mode, NASA said the observatory is almost back to performing its regular science operations.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, the U.S. space agency gave an update about the observation's backup gyroscope. The instrument, which is used to stabilize and turn the telescope, has been giving incorrect rotation rates since Oct. 5.

The rotation rates returned by the malfunctioning gyroscope have since been reduced. NASA says that additional tests will be performed before the telescope goes back to work.

Fixing The Gyroscope

In a blog post, NASA explained that the team of experts behind the Hubble Space Telescope attempted to correct the high rotation rates of the backup gyroscope by performing "a running restart" on Oct. 16. In short, they tried turning it off and on again.

The team turned off the gyroscope for a second in order to clear any faults that occurred when it was first switched on two weeks ago. After all, the gyroscope has been inactive and in storage for 7.5 years. Then it was restarted before the wheel spun down.

When that did not work, NASA attempted other basic troubleshooting techniques. The team checked if there were any jams by turning the gyroscope in opposite directions. The space agency also switched the instrument from low to mode to dislodge any blockage.

After a while, the team commanded the Hubble Space Telescope to perform additional maneuvers that seemed to fix the gyroscope issues. By Monday, the gyroscope seems to be reporting normal rates both in high and low mode.

NASA will continue to observe the telescope to make sure that it remains stable. The space agency will also perform maneuvers, including moving and locking to targets. If it performs as expected, then the almost 30-year-old telescope will go back to normal scientific operations.

Hubble Space Telescope Finds Its First Exomoon

Before it was placed into safe mode, astronomers from Columbia University used the data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope to discover a moon outside the Solar System. A study published in the journal Science Advances proves the existence of the large exomoon (the size of Neptune) orbiting a planet as big as Jupiter some 8,000 light-years away from Earth.

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