Hubble Space Telescope Begins 'Two-Gyro' Science Operations

August 31, 2005

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered a new era of science operations this week, when engineers shut down one of the three operational gyroscopes aboard the observatory. The two-gyro mode is expected to preserve the operating life of the third gyro and extend Hubble's science observations through mid-2008, an eight-month extension.

This conclusion followed detailed analysis by engineers and scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. Thorough testing of the two-gyro mode was completed prior to implementation.

The gyros are an integral part Hubble's complex pointing control system. The system maintains precise pointing of the telescope during science observations. The system was originally designed to operate on three gyros, with another three in reserve. Two of the six are no longer functional.

"Hubble science on two gyros will be indistinguishable from the superb science we have become accustomed to over the years," said senior Hubble scientist David Leckrone at Goddard.

Gyros are the heart, though not the sole component, of Hubble's pointing control system. When only two gyros are available, the observatory experiences an "unsensed" direction. Using Hubble's Fine Guidance Sensors, engineers were able to "fill in" the missing data normally generated by the third gyro.

Hubble also needs to know its location as it completes one observation and slews across the sky to acquire its next target. This information, previously supplied by the observatory's three gyros, is provided by onboard magnetometers and Fixed Head Star Trackers.

Many Hubble astronomers were consulted and were part of the overall decision process about two-gyro science operations. Switching off one gyro can preserve it for future use and extended two-gyro operational time for Hubble.

NASA has stated a Space Shuttle servicing mission to Hubble will be considered after two successful return-to-flight missions. The servicing mission would include installing new gyros, batteries, and science instruments to provide several more years of observations.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Behind the scenes of recovering NASA's Hubble

Related Stories

Behind the scenes of recovering NASA's Hubble

November 28, 2018

In the early morning of October 27, the Hubble Space Telescope targeted a field of galaxies not far from the Great Square in the constellation Pegasus. Contained in the field were star-forming galaxies up to 11 billion light-years ...

Hubble moving closer to normal science operations

October 23, 2018

NASA took great strides last week to press into service a Hubble Space Telescope backup gyroscope (gyro) that was incorrectly returning extremely high rotation rates. The backup gyro was turned on after the spacecraft entered ...

Refurbished Hubble Ready to Resume Exploration

May 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Hubble Space Telescope has been with us for nearly two decades. In that time, its breathtaking images have captured people’s imaginations and its groundbreaking science has revealed some of the many ...

Recommended for you

Oceans of garbage prompt war on plastics

December 15, 2018

Faced with images of turtles smothered by plastic bags, beaches carpeted with garbage and islands of trash floating in the oceans, environmentalists say the world is waking up to the need to tackle plastic pollution at the ...

A damming trend

December 14, 2018

Hundreds of dams are being proposed for Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The negative social and environmental consequences—affecting everything from food security to the environment—greatly outweigh the positive ...

See a passing comet this Sunday

December 14, 2018

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.