Hubble Space Telescope is in Trouble

Discussion in 'Science, Tech, & Space Exploration' started by nivek, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Hubble Space Telescope is in trouble after gyroscope failure

    The Hubble Space Telescope has advanced our understanding of the universe immeasurably since it was first deployed to low Earth orbit in 1990. It's impossible to overemphasize just how valuable it has been to scientists. But now, the space-based observatory is in trouble. The NASA Hubble Twitter account announced that on Friday, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode after a gyroscope, used to point and stabilize the observatory, failed.

    Screenshot_20181008-144452.jpg

    Hubble has six gyroscopes it uses to point itself and keep itself steady for observations. It can operate without one of them. Even two doesn't present a crippling failure for the telescope. The problem is that Hubble has only been operating with three of its gyroscopes up to now, the minimum needed for optimal functioning. Now it's down to two.

    The current plan, according to Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for the observatory, is to try and revive a previously failed gyroscope to replace this new failure. Unfortunately, that could take weeks to accomplish, which means the telescope will stay in safe mode until the team is able to troubleshoot the gyroscope. It's worth noting that the gyroscope failure wasn't unexpected; the problem is how to deal with it.

    Screenshot_20181008-144521.jpg

    If the team can't get one of the other gyroscopes up and running, then Dr. Oster explains that they will take Hubble down to one gyroscope. She makes it clear that, at this point, there isn't much difference between pointing with two gyroscopes and one, and this way the team can extend the life of the telescope as long as possible. However, this will impact the ability to point and stabilize the telescope, especially for long periods of time.

    Screenshot_20181008-144619.jpg

    The Hubble Space Telescope was last serviced in 2009, when all six of its gyroscopes were replaced, and it was expected to last until 2015. But the groundbreaking space observatory has continued to operate past that point, and NASA is committed to keeping it going as long as it can. Hubble's replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, was supposed to be in space by now, but various construction and assembly problems have delayed its launch until 2021. Let's hope Hubble can hold out until then, if not longer.

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  2. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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    There's no known space vehicle that can service the telescope. I don't recall hearing about a gyroscope problem in the past. Could there be a correlation between the drill hole on the ISS, the solar observatories shutting down and the current Hubble problems?
     
  3. AD1184

    AD1184 Adept

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    There is no longer any manned spaceflight capability, so Hubble is toast. I do not know why they did not put half a dozen Hubbles in space, rather than wasting so much time and money on the James Webb Space Telescope. I think the JWST is too much of a leap forward. They should instead have focused on incremental improvements to the Hubble design, rather than a massive evolutionary jump. But there are complex political, psychological and intra-organizational issues which contribute to a balls-up of a publicly-funded high-technology project. The neuroses of a few influential individuals can cause a more realistic proposal to be rejected.

    This table on the intended Hubble-replacement James Webb Space Telescope from Wikipedia is interesting:

    upload_2018-10-9_11-15-32.png

    Only a factor of twenty budget overrun and fourteen-year launch delay, for a project with a five-year design life and ten-year goal life (Hubble has been in orbit for twenty-eight years). If Hubble is as important as claimed, then there needs to be at least one Hubble equivalent in orbit and operational at any time, and preferably more than one, because Hubble is over-subscribed.

    Why o why did they not settle on a design with more modest capabilities? It would seem worth it to launch a few throw-away Hubbles that are not designed to be serviceable in orbit. Or even possibly
     
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  4. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Indeed, I would think Hubble's technology would be rather cheap to reproduce now, since it is almost 30 years old, seems we could have 2 or 3 hubbles in orbit now...Then what about those gyroscopes, they installed all new ones in 2009, six of them and now down to two left?...What is burning them out so quickly?...We have cars and trucks on the roads for decades, many having original parts that last, why cannot we have gyroscopes that last decades?...Surely being in space without weather to affect them they should last a long time and we have lost four now since 2009?...

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  5. Shadowprophet

    Shadowprophet N=R^.fp.ne.f1.fi.fc.L

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    I tend to agree with you guys, The Hubble was and I suppose is great, But we can do so much better now with modern technology, it's time to put her out to pasture, She's outlived her predicted lifespan by a long shot anyway.
     
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  6. AD1184

    AD1184 Adept

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    The limited lifetime of the gyroscopes is something known about and their failure is not unexpected. It seems that there is only so long they can remain in operation before they fail. Cars and trucks on the road typically receive annual servicing. It would be difficult to keep a car on the road for decades if you could not change any parts at all or perform any maintenance at all. Most of the parts of the Hubble telescope are original to its construction but like a car or a truck some of the crucial components are lifed items that need to be replaced at regular intervals.

    There is this fact sheet on NASA's website:

    https://www.nasa.gov/pdf/206045main_GYROS_FS-2006-11-087_12_4.pdf

    The telescope was launched in 1990 and four of six gyros were replaced in 1993, and all six in 1999. All six were again replaced in 2009. So nine or ten years for full gyro replacement seems to be the expectation.

    However, the failure of the last lot which were replaced in 2009 was apparently due to oxygen in the pressurized air which forces oil into a cavity surrounding the gyroscope assemblies causing wires immersed in the oil to corrode. A change was made to use pressurized nitrogen instead of air which was supposed to increase the lifetime of these thin wires before they succumbed to corrosion. This seems either not to have worked as well as hoped, or the cause of failure is something else.
     
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  7. Sheltie

    Sheltie Noble

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    Kind of sad. It's like when you have an old car with a lot of memories and the guy at the repair shop tells you it's in much worse shape than you expected. :sad8:
     
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  8. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Well I was referring more towards parts on a car or truck that get little to no annual service like the rear end gear box, four wheel drive differentials, suspension systems, but I don't know how fragile and delicate these gyroscopes are...Sounds like from your descriptions they simply were not taken care of well and human error caused their premature failures...

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  9. AD1184

    AD1184 Adept

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    How so? They are sealed devices from the factory and launched into space from new. Where it was known what caused the failure, the wear was chemical, not mechanical.
     
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  10. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    I would attribute it to human error for not foreseeing or realizing the problems in testing and engineering that caused the premature failure, perhaps making more improvements in their design or protection would have extended their life in space...

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  11. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Another NASA space telescope just went into safe mode

    The Chandra X-ray Observatory joins Hubble in going into protective mode to deal with a system complication.

    It's starting to feel like there's a space jinx.

    Hot on the heels of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entering safe mode after a gyroscope failure, the agency's Chandra X-ray Observatory has now gone into a similar protective state.

    NASA announced the issue Friday, though it happened on Wednesday.

    When Chandra enters safe mode, it swaps over to hardware backup units, orients its solar panels to gather maximum sunlight and points its mirrors away from the sun.

    "Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behavior for such an event. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe," NASA says.

    Instruments go into safe mode to protect themselves during hardware or software failures or glitches, leaving only essential survival systems operating. The space agency is now investigating the cause of the safe-mode transition.

    Space challenges
    Chandra is designed to make X-ray observations of distant space features, including quasars, supernovas and black holes. It's part of NASA's Great Observatories program, which includes Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

    As with Hubble, Chandra has long outlived its expected original mission. The observatory is now 19 years old and was originally designed to function for five years. NASA recently extended the contract to operate Chandra through at least 2024.

    Chandra's move into safe mode is just one of a long list of new challenges for NASA. Besides Hubble, NASA is also grappling with losing contact with the Opportunity rover on Mars, a data transmission problem with the Curiosity rover and a Soyuz mission launch failure this week.

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  12. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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  13. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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  14. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    It does appear something is going on, too many things to be a coincidence as you said, we also have a rover lost on Mars too..,

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  15. Standingstones

    Standingstones See you in heaven, if you make the list.

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    Don't forget the Russian Phobos 2 craft that was lost right after taking photos of a cylindrical shape positioned between the Phobos 2 and the Phobos moon. These photos were held to be secret until Cosmonaut Dr. Marina Popovich released them to the West.
     
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  16. nivek

    nivek As Above So Below

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    Does SpaceX have the ability to send astronauts into space and to the ISS?...If not then America doesn't have access to space any longer with Russian launches shut down...Wel, there's China...

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  17. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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    According to this article we and the Japanese can resupply the ISS.
    On Thursday a rocket failed. Three humans remain on the ISS. What’s next?
    It looks like SpaceX can only resupply.
    Watch SpaceX Launch Its Resupply Mission to the ISS
     
  18. AD1184

    AD1184 Adept

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    Without Soyuz there is only the ability to re-supply non-human cargo to the ISS. Soyuz was the only functioning manned-launch system in the world until earlier this week. This is, however, a contingency that is planned for. The current crew on the ISS can leave in an emergency crew capsule if need be, and can likely remain in orbit indefinitely barring an emergency while the Soyuz failure is investigated.

    There is no possible relationship between the failure of the Soyuz launch and gyro problems on Hubble. Four of six gyros have failed on Hubble since 2009. This is in line with the expected gyro failure rate on Hubble since its launch.

    The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has been operating in space now for 19 years with no maintenance. It will not last forever.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018 at 7:23 AM
  19. Toroid

    Toroid Founding Member

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    The problem with the Chandra X-ray observatory has been fixed.
    After briefly going offline, NASA’s Chandra X-ray space telescope is back in action
    [​IMG]
     
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  20. Standingstones

    Standingstones See you in heaven, if you make the list.

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    God knows that the US got its money’s worth with the Hubble Telescope. The question is why we were so short sighted and didn’t design and send another craft into space to replace the aging Hubble.
     
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