Gyroscope malfunction forces Hubble Space Telescopes into safe mode

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most reliable pieces of hardware ever launched into Earth orbit.

Hubble's pseudo-successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was supposed to already be up and running for years by this point, but Northrop Grumman's inability to do the job it's being paid billions of dollars to do has caused over a decade's worth of delays. The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a pointing system failure.

The Space Telescope Science Institute's deputy mission head, Dr. Rachel Osten, said the first move "is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic".

Hubble is equipped with six gyroscopes, but it's been operating with only three active gyros.

Gyroscopes are needed to keep Hubble pointed in the right direction during observations. The safe mode is meant to keep the telescope "precisely pointed" for a long duration, the space agency explains, stating that experts are working on fixing the problem.

Astronauts photographed Hubble during a space shuttle servicing mission in 2009.

The Hubble Space Telescope gets its final close-up after a shuttle servicing mission in 2009.

'Not really scary, we knew it was coming.

If the problematic gyroscope can't be successfully brought back online - and if the most recent failure proves permanent - Hubble may be forced to operate on a single gyroscope for the foreseeable future.

Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.

Osten said, 'The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. The newly failed gyro is the last of that old design, and it lasted about six months longer than expected.

'We'll work through the issues and be back'. "Which the Astro community wants desperately", Osten tweeted.

Hubble has made numerous outstanding observations of the cosmos since it was deployed in 1990.

Vanessa Coleman