Another NASA space telescope shuts down in orbit

October 12, 2018 by Marcia Dunn
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Chandra X-ray Observatory. On Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, the space agency said that the telescope automatically went into so-called safe mode on Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem. (NASA/CXC/SAO via AP)

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra's automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday due to a gyroscope failure.

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.

NASA said it's coincidental both went "asleep" within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that "Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too."

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA's Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths.

Explore further: Hubble Space Telescope sidelined by serious pointing failure (Update)

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Da Schneib
2 / 5 (9) Oct 12, 2018
I dislike coincidences. Could this be hacking?

On edit: maybe not, looks like Hubble's gyroscope failures are legitimate.
chemhaznet1
2 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2018
Ok, this is getting to be a little strange...
evropej
2.9 / 5 (7) Oct 12, 2018
Elon Musk, we need these things fixed/serviced!
granville583762
2.1 / 5 (14) Oct 12, 2018
Why hibernate a useful worn telescope, it is just a heap of scrap asleep

Why should it hibernate because it has lost its gyro, how is it maintaing a stable orbit while hibernating
it can still be used without its gyro, all be it with difficulties, but shutting it down when there is no way of fixing or replacing the gyro is pointless, what is the telescope being protected against, it's a heap of scrap asleep

Its useful keeping it active till it literally falls apart
zz5555
3.9 / 5 (7) Oct 12, 2018
Obviously, the aliens are trying to hide what they're going. ;)
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (10) Oct 12, 2018
So let's make a list...
•Sats shutting down
•(2) mars rovers shut down - opportunity and curiosity
•Soyuz launch abort
•Record number of earthquakes worldwide, everywhere
•Record number of asteroids whizzing by
•Stocks down worldwide
•hurricanes picking up after long hiatus

What else what else?
Whydening Gyre
4.6 / 5 (11) Oct 12, 2018
So let's make a list...
•Sats shutting down
•(2) mars rovers shut down - opportunity and curiosity
•Soyuz launch abort
•Record number of earthquakes worldwide, everywhere
•Record number of asteroids whizzing by
•Stocks down worldwide
•hurricanes picking up after long hiatus

What else what else?

Pot stocks are up....
steven_buczkowski
5 / 5 (8) Oct 12, 2018
Why hibernate? How is maintaining a stable orbit?

Safe mode is an automatic safety mechanism. When onboard systems detect an anomaly or failure, the system largely shuts down until controllers on the ground can assess the situation and bring things back on line.

Orbiting is a question of momentum and gravity, gyros are about orientation and pointing stability. Neither Hubble nor Chandra are in any immediate danger of deorbiting because of faulty gyros but they can't point accurately to make science observations

Da Schneib
4.2 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2018
The problem is that without accurate pointing the most likely problem is that the solar panels haven't been getting enough power to keep the batteries charged. In this mode the solar panels are oriented to get maximum power and charge the batteries.
Parsec
2 / 5 (5) Oct 13, 2018
The problem is that without accurate pointing the most likely problem is that the solar panels haven't been getting enough power to keep the batteries charged. In this mode the solar panels are oriented to get maximum power and charge the batteries.


Nonsense. gyro's are required for pointing and they have a useful lifetime. That is why all of these telescopes had extra gyros, but they have been failing over the years. In the case of Hubble, the minimum number of working gyros has failed, so the spacecraft is tumbling. Its unclear yet exactly what happened to Chandra, but given its age it is quite likely the same thing has happened.

Batteries and solar panels probably have little to do with it. Unless they inside an atmosphere or hit my micrometeorites, their lifetime is in the decades.
granville583762
3.5 / 5 (8) Oct 13, 2018
Why hibernate? How is maintaining a stable orbit?
Safe mode is an automatic safety mechanism. When onboard systems detect an anomaly or failure, the system largely shuts down until controllers on the ground can assess the situation and bring things back on line.
Orbiting is a question of momentum and gravity, gyros are about orientation and pointing stability. Neither Hubble nor Chandra are in any immediate danger of deorbiting because of faulty gyros but they can't point accurately to make science observations

Chandra X-ray Observatory cost 3billion$$$, so for want of a dime a telescope is lost, and as I thought satellites tumble in their orbits
As Parsec points out "Batteries and solar panels probably have little to do with it. Unless inside the atmosphere or hit by micrometeorites, their lifetime is in the decades"

A telescope built like a tank to last several life times, with abundant power at just a mere 3billion$$$ and for want of a gyro it's all toast
RNP
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 13, 2018
@Parsec
In the case of Hubble, the minimum number of working gyros has failed, so the spacecraft is tumbling.


Not acccording to the NASA website on the matter ( https://www.nasa....afe-mode ) which says;

"Safe mode places the telescope into a stable configuration that suspends science observations and orients the spacecraft's solar panels toward the Sun to ensure Hubble's power requirements are met. The spacecraft remains in this configuration until ground control can correct or compensate for the issue. The rest of the spacecraft and its instruments are still fully functional and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come."
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2018
Obviously, the aliens are trying to hide what they're going. ;)
says zz5555

Shhh don't let them know that you know their secret.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
2.5 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2018
Why hibernate? How is maintaining a stable orbit?

Safe mode is an automatic safety mechanism. When onboard systems detect an anomaly or failure, the system largely shuts down until controllers on the ground can assess the situation and bring things back on line.

Orbiting is a question of momentum and gravity, gyros are about orientation and pointing stability. Neither Hubble nor Chandra are in any immediate danger of deorbiting because of faulty gyros but they can't point accurately to make science observations

says Steven_B

So, in essence, the thing is dead in the water, so to speak with regards to direction?
granville583762
2.5 / 5 (8) Oct 13, 2018
The question still remains
seu> So, in essence, the thing is dead in the water, so to speak with regards to direction?

Why hibernate a useful worn telescope, it is just a heap of scrap asleep
Assuming this automatic hibernation allows ground based technicians to bring it out of hibernation
As part of inevitable gyro failure, commonsense suggests a less accurate, but bomb proof system of aligning this telescope and its solar panels!
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2018
Considering the chronic complaints from commentators of tax money wasted on real science they have no understanding of? I would have thought there would be more applause for the controllers adopting a safety-conscious, conservative program to salvage what value is left in the machinery. But all I'm hearing is fake-conservatives whining.

And deer otto, for your list of prominent disasters? You left out the dishonorable corruption of Kavanugh's appointment to fill Justice Roger B. Taney' seat.

If you are ignorant of American history? And I realize that ignorance is a requirement for all you altright fairytails. To maintain your image of politically correct ideological purity.

SCCJ Tabey was the guy who pulled the opening trigger on the War of Northern Aggression that crushed the peculiar institution of legal mass rape infesting the antebellum fantasyland.
granville583762
3 / 5 (6) Oct 13, 2018
Backup alternative gyro equivalent
Parsec> In the case of Hubble, the minimum number of working gyros has failed, so the spacecraft is tumbling.

RNP> Not acccording to the NASA website on the matter ( https://www.nasa....afe-mode ) which says; "Safe mode places the telescope into a stable configuration that suspends science observations and orients the spacecraft's solar panels toward the Sun to ensure Hubble's power requirements are met. The spacecraft remains in this configuration until ground control can correct or compensate for the issue. The rest of the spacecraft and its instruments are still fully functional and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come."

What is aligning the telescopes panels if its gyro's are worn out, it is still possible to align the telescope for observations
Laser ring gyro's are cheap and plentiful now a days, with mass production?
Osiris1
1 / 5 (4) Oct 13, 2018
TWO in one week!? That is NO accident. It is enemy action from inside or outside. FIND the traitors or the saboteurs.
cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (5) Oct 13, 2018
TWO in one week!? That is NO accident. It is enemy action from inside or outside. FIND the traitors or the saboteurs.

It's most likely the Sun and the solar wind interaction with the spacecraft, shall we arrest them?
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2018
Yes, let's send Osiris to do a citizens arrest of his daddy Aten. It will set a good example for trumpenella's improbably progeny.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2018
The problem is that without accurate pointing the most likely problem is that the solar panels haven't been getting enough power to keep the batteries charged. In this mode the solar panels are oriented to get maximum power and charge the batteries.


Nonsense. gyro's are required for pointing and they have a useful lifetime. That is why all of these telescopes had extra gyros, but they have been failing over the years. In the case of Hubble, the minimum number of working gyros has failed, so the spacecraft is tumbling. Its unclear yet exactly what happened to Chandra, but given its age it is quite likely the same thing has happened.

Batteries and solar panels probably have little to do with it. Unless they inside an atmosphere or hit my micrometeorites, their lifetime is in the decades.
I'm not saying that's what happened, I'm saying that's what the shutdown routine does.

Maybe read a little more carefully. Got yourself a 1 for that.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2018
I'm surprised and pleasantly pleased that they have lasted THIS long. The shutdowns were to prevent further ( possibly catastrophic) breakdowns. There may still be science eked out from these satellites, yet. And even possible, a restart of one of the heretofore failed gyro's.
Thanks DS, for making me scroll down and read RNP's comment...
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Oct 13, 2018
Thanks @RNP. I would have thought anyone would have read the NASA site. Silly me.
torbjorn_b_g_larsson
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 13, 2018
And Hayabusa2 has delayed its next probe drop, because the target is so rocky. :-/

Else this is not unexpected, gyros is a common pointing mechanism - if not the only one, demonstrated by Kepler using its solar panels as solar wind sails during the K2 mission. I am not a craft constructor, but crafts have been stabilized by rockets (manned crafts usually), spin (the Pioneers, say), and mechanical gyros in combination with rockets (since the gyros are spun up when they resist outside forces and eventually need to bleed off speed).

Earlier generations gyros such as Kepler's have been known for excessive wear on their - often ceramic - bearings. AFAIK the latest generation prefer to use magnetic bearings, but they can fail for other reasons (as one of Hubble's 3 new ones did, I guess). So they are finite resources, and if we naively use Poisson statistics for failures we expect random clusters of fails.

Laser gyros!? Used for *seeing* accelerations, not resisting them!
Cusco
3 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2018
I'm wondering if an add-on package could be sent to Hubble with a stabilization module and latch on for a reasonable amount of money. The telescope will work if it's pointed right, no better than before but no worse.
Thorium Boy
1.4 / 5 (5) Oct 13, 2018
This is what happens when you spend $150 billion on an unproductive and useless space station, while killing the Space Shuttle. How does it feel having to ask the Russians to do the ferrying?
granville583762
4 / 5 (4) Oct 14, 2018
Laser gyro's – carrying spares
torbjorn_b_g_larsson> Earlier generations gyros such as Kepler's have been known for excessive wear on their - often ceramic - bearings. AFAIK the latest generation prefer to use magnetic bearings, but they can fail for other reasons (as one of Hubble's 3 new ones did, I guess). So they are finite resources, and if we naively use Poisson statistics for failures we expect random clusters of fails.
Laser gyros Used for seeing accelerations, not resisting them

Wear on ceramic, magnetic bearings - either way gyro's are delicate mechanisms rotating at high speed can't take external force, laser ring gyro's sense orientation is mechanically be converted into telescope alignment, as it is the mechanical gyro breaking down, not the mechanical alignment mechanism the gyro is orientating, any gyro can be used as these laser ring gyro's are thumb nail sized enabling Chandra carrying whole buckets full of spare laser ring gyro's!
granville583762
4 / 5 (4) Oct 14, 2018
Gyroscopic reactionless rotational propulsion in the vacuum

As now were getting at the nub of the problem, namely alignment in the weightless environment of the vacuum and Sir Isaac Newton's third law - every particle experiences an equal and opposite reaction
Which is why the gyroscope is used, it reacts to force by precessing at right angles to the force
This implies to align Chandra, there is torque on its bearings, which is the cause of wear on its bearings
Gyroscopes in precession, the force is quasi neutral, the net force is zero, Newton's third
As long as the gyro can precess, there is no rotational force on Chandra, allowing telescopic alignment in the vacuum

But gyro's spin at high speed are delicate mechanical mechanisms, the time is nigh to move into the electronic world, and find an alternative to gyroscopic rotational propulsion in the vacuum!
antigoracle
not rated yet Oct 15, 2018
Let's hope it is not the gyros on Chandra as it would mean another bump on the road for JWST since it uses similar gyros.
barakn
5 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2018
This is what happens when you spend $150 billion on an unproductive and useless space station, while killing the Space Shuttle. How does it feel having to ask the Russians to do the ferrying?

The Space Shuttle? You mean the thing that killed one in every 60 passengers?
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (1) Oct 15, 2018
Oh, otto is downright enthusiastic about sacrificing other peoples lives to attain his delusion of self-glorification.

I'm guessing, otto has become a poster-child for orange hair as a communicable brain-deadening disease.

The trumpenellazombie Apocalypse goosestepping over the edge into the abyss.

But they have very coquettish uniforms and shiny jackboots. The altright fairytails get lots of practice licking putin's boots to a state of glare!
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (3) Oct 15, 2018
either way gyro's are delicate mechanisms rotating at high speed can't take external force . . .


These satellites use reaction wheels and magnatorquers to orient the craft and keep it pointing correctly. Gyros are used to get close to the pointing target, and then guide stars are used for precision targeting.

(Thrusters of any kind cannot be controlled with enough precision to maintain accurate pointing, they risk contaminating the optics, and they can only be used as long as there is a supply of reactant.)
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2018
Gyros are used to get close to the pointing target, and then guide stars are used for precision targeting.


To clarify- the gyros send signals to the reaction wheels and magnatorquers to get the craft roughly pointed at the target of interest, and then star-trackers are used for precise pointing control.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Oct 15, 2018
Let's hope it is not the gyros on Chandra as it would mean another bump on the road for JWST since it uses similar gyros.

And oh, look... Chandra is back up as of 10-15-18...

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