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Just a day after Voyager's resurrection NASA got into trouble with another iconic spacecraft

A picture taken by Hubble Space Telescope

Space exploration represents a tremendous technical challenge, particularly when it involves spacecraft cruising around the Sun or even traveling beyond our Solar system for decades. That’s why solving technical difficulties on the go is nothing new to space engineers.

We recently reported on the months-long communication issue of the iconic Voyager 1, which was sending erroneous data that NASA engineers were unable to decipher. To their delight, this glitch was ultimately fixed, NASA announced on April 22.

However, as the agency revealed late last week, on the very next day, April 23, another spacecraft encountered difficulties that knocked it out of operation. This time, it was the iconic Hubble Space Telescope that ran into trouble with gyros and entered safe mode, placing its science instruments in a stable condition and awaiting commands from NASA.

It’s not the first time that the telescope’s gyroscopes have failed. In fact, they are the least reliable part of the spacecraft, and this is just another episode in the Spinnin’ Wheels docuseries that could one day be streamed on NASA TV.

One of the holy grails of astronomy, launched in 1990, is serving on low Earth orbit well beyond its originally planned lifespan of 15 years. All that thanks to the Space Shuttle’s ability to execute servicing missions to the precious spacecraft.

The fifth and last servicing mission to Hubble was conducted in 2009. As part of the mission, all six gyroscopes onboard Hubble were replaced. Three of them – already inoperable by now – were of the old design, while another three were redesigned for improved reliability.

One of these “new” gyros, however, has been problematic since the very beginning, and this is not the first time it has caused a headache for NASA engineers. The last time it stopped the Hubble from scientific operations was in November. The agency is currently trying to figure out a solution for the latest trouble.

It is important to note, that in an ideal scenario, Hubble is operating with three working gyroscopes, however, it can be re-configured to work with only one gyro (although with some limitations to its observation abilities). Therefore, the engineers remain optimistic, and once fixed, they expect the telescope to continue making groundbreaking discoveries throughout this decade and possibly into the next.

Hubble Space Telescope made over a million observations in its 34 years of existence, and many of them provided us with unbelievable imagery of the universe. You can watch Hubble’s highlights on NASA’s website, and if you are interested in the latest groundbreaking tech flying to space, don’t forget to check the 162nd edition of Paul Hill’s This Week in Rocket Launches.

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