NASA's Chandra telescope in safe mode due to glitch

Chandra X-ray Observatory

Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

"At approximately 9:55 a.m. EDT on Oct 10, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe", it added.

Barely a week after NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode, its Chandra mission has also suffered a glitch possibly due to the failure of the gyroscope, the United States space agency said. NASA has received data from the observatory and says all signs point toward safe mode having taken place according to plan. Last week, NASA and European Space Agency engineers suspended the telescopes' scientific activities after one of its gyroscopes failed.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. 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". "The tests showed that the gyro is properly tracking Hubble's movement, but the rates reported are consistently higher than the true rates", according to NASA. "The extremely high rates now being reported exceed the upper limit of the gyro in this low mode, preventing the gyro from reporting the spacecraft's small movements", NASA explained.

An anomaly board is studying the problem, including ways to address the problem using ground systems. The spacecraft is equipped with six, which were replaced on the final shuttle servicing mission in 2009. Normally, when fixed on an observation target, Hubble's gyros operate on low-mode.

With one of the three remaining ones not performing as expected, Hubble can't be operated in its usual three-gyro mode.

It's part of NASA's Great Observatories program, which includes Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The observatory has been in operation for almost two decades.

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