So, even if Hubble does continue to lose functionality or have expected issues like this gyro failure over the next couple of years, the James Webb should eventually be able to pick up where Hubble leaves off.
Gyroscopes are needed to keep the 340-mile-high (540-kilometre-high) Hubble pointed in the right direction during observations. Until the problem has been fixed, the telescope has been put into 'safe mode, ' suspending its scientific experiments. The Hubble telescope, launched in 1990, has explored the most remote regions of the cosmos in search of clues about the origin of life and the universe itself.
If ground control can again get the third enhanced gyro to assume normal operations, the science operations will resume in a standard triple-gyro fashion. There are three gyros of the older generation with a history of showing signs of malfunction after 50,000 hours of service.
"Three of them were on and one was off", Sembach said.
Hubble, which has been observing the heavens since 1990, went into a protective safe mode after another one of its orientation-maintaining gyroscopes failed, mission team members said Sunday night (Oct. 7).
Most of the giant Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae.
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"So we turned it on as planned and the gyro was not reading the rates the way it should", Sembach said.
Although NASA revealed the telescope's gyroscope failure, it didn't disclose very many other details.
Should engineers conclude that the enhanced gyro can't be used, leaving only two, controllers plan to shift to an alternative mode that allows the spacecraft to operate with just a single gyro.
'We'll work through the issues and be back'.
"So things closer in in the solar system than, say, the orbit of Mars, that would be more hard", he said. That was unfortunate, as the telescope requires at least three functional gyroscopes for optimal use. Sure, that means less sky coverage at a time.
For now, Hubble's still the star of the show, so let's hope it can pull through. But there is "relatively limited impact" on the overall science of the machine, NASA said.