A few weeks ago, NASA announced that there was some serious issue with the Hubble Telescope. One of the gyroscopes of the telescope had failed and left the telescope with only two working gyros for movement and stabilization. This Monday, NASA announced that it had fixed the problem with the telescope using space-based versions of the same strategy which usually people use to set their computer. Which is, giving it a nice whack. The troublesome gyroscopes are several small spinning cylinders which rotate and stabilize the telescope. Without these cylinders, Hubble and other telescopes will not be able to control what they are observing and looking at.
These are the essential parts for a telescope’s operation, however, since they are the moving parts they have a shorter lifespan. Malfunctioning gyroscopes can kill all the telescopes of NASA if they are given enough time. In the case of Hubble, these gyroscopes were replaced during a Space Shuttle mission in 2009. However, since the shuttle program is shut down, it is impossible to replace the gyroscopes again. Among six, three gyroscopes have already failed in the Hubble. If one more gyroscope goes down, Hubble will be unable to work at full capacity.
The satellite was placed in safe mode when one of the remaining three gyros stopped working. This suspended the scientific observations while NASA was developing a plan. The idea was to revive one of the three gyroscopes which have failed previously. NASA’s first step was to follow the advice which was given by every IT department all over the world. They tried to turn the gyro on and off again. A press release from NASA stated, “This procedure turned the gyro off for one second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down. The intention was to clear any faults that may have occurred after the gyro had been off for more than 7.5 years.”
This method was not enough to solve the problem, and the gyro was still giving jumbled data to the NASA team on the ground. The team suspected that some internal blockage was causing trouble with the gyro’s sensors, so they moved to the second step which was to give it a swift kick. The press release states, “On Oct. 18, the Hubble operations team commanded a series of spacecraft maneuvers in opposite directions to attempt to clear any blockage.” These turns appeared to produce enough force to clear up the blockage. After repeating the procedure, the backup gyro started working just fine. Hubble is back to work with three of its gyroscopes working correctly and keeping everything normal. It will get back to its job of taking pictures of cosmos very soon.