Hubble Space Telescope resumes science operations

Hubble Space Telescope resumes science operations

The Hubble Space Telescope returned to normal operations with three fully functional gyroscopes late Friday and completed its first science observations on Saturday, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.

The Hubble Space Telescope is once again keeping an eye on the sky.

Hubble had been experiencing problems with a gyroscope. The gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning and is crucial in helping Hubble to turn and lock on to new targets. Earlier this month NASA revealed that the Hubble was experiencing some unexpected downtime after one of its gyroscopes failed and the backup gyro returned weird readings. Mission team members worked to recruit a backup gyroscope but had trouble doing so, because the gyro returned anomalous readings - specifically, it measured rotation rates that were higher than the actual ones.

NASA said last week that Hubble was nearing normal operations; over the weekend NASA announced that normal operations had resumed. Believing that some kind of blockage was responsible for the telescope's odd behavior, NASA's team performed a series of maneuvers meant to free up the gyroscope, ultimately correcting the problem.

They also checked to see that the device was secure before adding more safeguards in case the high rotation rates happen again, NASA shared.

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More steps were taken that same day.

"Late Friday, the team began the process to restore the scientific instruments to standard operating status", NASA said in a statement.

By late Friday, Hubble successfully completed maneuvers to get on target for the first science observations and collected its first science data since October 5, NASA said. If the backup had continued to misbehave, the mission team likely would have gone to one-gyro mode, with the other functioning gyroscope in reserve as a backup.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has had trouble with its gyroscopes before. The last of these, in May 2009, featured the replacement of all six gyroscopes. By Oct. 22, NASA said that the rates from the gyro were back to normal, and were performing additional engineering tests to confirm that the gyro was working properly.

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