NASA's Chandra Observatory Back in Action

  • NASA's Chandra Observatory Back in Action

NASA's Chandra Observatory Back in Action

"The team has completed plans to switch gyroscopes and place the gyroscope that experienced the glitch in reserve", the agency said in an update. The Chandra X-ray Observatory is healthy and set to resume science operations after a problem forced it into safe mode on October 10.

The erroneous reading triggered the safe-mode condition, which caused Chandra to swap critical hardware operations to backup units and reconfigure its mirrors and solar panels to avoid the risk of damage. "Once configured with a series of pre-tested flight software patches, the team will return Chandra to science operations which are expected to commence by the end of this week".

NASA's rough month is improving somewhat: the American space agency is spinning up a spare gyroscope to bring the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory back online by the end of the week, and it reckons it can wake the Hubble Space Telescope soon.

"Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of 5 years", NASA explains.

Gyroscopes help spacecraft maintain proper orientation.

Just before 10 a.m. EDT on October 10, the telescope automatically entered a safe configuration, swapping critical hardware to back-up units and changing direction for optimal solar panel charging.

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options were available to recover the gyro to operational performance. While the telescope can function with two, or even one, gyro - the gyroscopes keep the telescope pointed in the same direction for long periods of time - Hubble functions best with at least three gyros.

Chandra is part of NASA's Great Observatories Program, which launched four powerful space telescopes from 1990 to 2003: the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) in 1991 and the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2003.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also almost out of fuel and might run out as early as October.