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).
As a result, Hubble is in so-called safe mode with non-essential systems turned off, putting all science observations on hold.
The six gyros on the Hubble were restored in 2009 during concluding servicing mission to the instrument by NASA's space shuttle.
"Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until ground control can correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation", it said. For now, NASA hasn't offered any timeframe on when can we expect Hubble Space Telescope to come back into operation.
NASA scientists are desperately trying to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, which is now pointing the wrong way because of a technical fault. Although science operations are expected to resume fairly soon, the current issues raise concerns about the future of the invaluable scientific instrument. The problem is that Hubble has only been operating with three of its gyroscopes up to now, the minimum needed for optimal functioning.
Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head of the spacecraft, shared in a tweet that the team is trying to revive one of the gyros that failed.
Since its launch, the space telescope has made over 163,500 trips around Earth, more than 1.5 million observations of over 43,500 celestial objects and generated 153 terabytes of data, as per cnet.com.
The telescope is known to be nearing the end of its active life, with the James Webb Space Telescope - now scheduled for launch no earlier than 2021 - slated to be its successor.
The 28-year-old telescope has had trouble with its gyroscopes before.
The solution. NASA has three backup gyros that are more advanced technically and will hope to have longer lives.
The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behaviour for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed. But Hubble will still be able to do some useful science, and dropping down to one gyro instead of two effectively doubles its lifespan. However, if that does not work, she said that the plan has always been to just use one of the remaining gyros and keep the other one as a reserve.
Though the space telescope remains in operation, the malfunction highlights the limited time Hubble has remaining.