NASA's Chandra telescope in safe mode due to glitch

15 October, 2018, 01:34 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • An artist's rendering of NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope. Image Credit NASA

Shortly after its announcement regarding Hubble, NASA has revealed that another of its space telescopes has entered safe mode.

It's been a bad couple weeks in space. NASA has received data from the observatory and says all signs point toward safe mode having taken place according to plan.

As one group of engineers continues to diagnose a gyro problem that has sidelined the Hubble Space Telescope, another is dealing with a problem that has put operations of another large space observatory on hold. "The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation, and we will post more information when it becomes available". "All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe", it added.

In a tweet published on the Chandra Observatory Twitter page, NASA said the telescope was created to only last five years, meaning even if this failure puts it out of commission, it has far exceeded expectations. Because of this, the telescope is temporarily stopped work and was translated in safe mode. Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also nearly out of fuel.

Shifting to one-gyro operations will "still provide excellent science well into the 2020s", NASA said, but acknowledged that it would operate at "slightly lower efficiency" in that mode.

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Because the gyro is reading rates of changes at a greater magnitude, it can't be used to monitor smaller changes.

In a lengthy statement, NASA explains that the previous reports are accurate and that Hubble's suite of gyroscopes is now acting up.

If followup troubleshooting efforts fail, Hubble will be forced to shut down all but a single gyroscope.

The tests showed that the gyro is properly tracking Hubble's movement, but the rates reported are consistently higher than the true rates.

Losing Chandra is even more of a blow to the astronomy community than losing Hubble. And the Curiosity rover's memory issues recently spurred mission team members to swap that robot over to its backup computer. The current situation has raised questions about its age but its replacement James Webb Space Telescope is not likely to launch till 2021 so Hubble has to be carefully managed till then. Engineers haven't communicated with the rover for four months.

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