NASA resets Hubble gyroscope with an old tech-support trick

Did you try turning it off and back on?

Sci-Tech 101: “Okay. The first thing I want you to do is to turn it off,
wait 30 seconds, then turn it on again.” Virtually all of us have at
one time or another have either received or given this advice when a
device has gone wonky. It doesn’t always fix the problem, but it is the
easiest and quickest thing that might sort out the issue, so its the
first thing you should try.

Earlier this month the Hubble Space Telescope’s (HST) gyroscope went
haywire and stopped functioning. Engineers prepared for such a
contingency by installing a backup gyro. However, after turning it on,
they discovered that it was spinning too fast and was unable to keep the
HST held in place.

Being that the telescope is not easily accessible, the failed gyroscopes
posed a significant problem for NASA engineers on the ground. How were
they to get the gyroscope functioning properly again without sending up
an expensive and risky spacewalk mission — were that even possible? By
executing a restart of course.

"In an attempt to correct the erroneously high rates produced by the
backup gyro, the Hubble operations team executed a running restart of
the gyro on Oct. 16th. This procedure turned the gyro off for one
second, and then restarted it before the wheel spun down."

While that is a simple way of putting it, the process is way more
complicated than that. The HST doesn't have an on/off switch. As such,
the Hubble team had to command the telescope to perform maneuvers while
switching the gyroscope from high-rotation to low-rotation.

“During each maneuver, the gyro was switched from high mode to low mode
to dislodge any blockage that may have accumulated around the float.,”
said NASA in a press release.

The maneuvers worked, and the HST’s gyro is functional once again.
However, NASA still has a few more tests to conduct to be sure the
backup gyroscope can function properly during normal operations. After
all, it has been sitting collecting dust (so to speak) for 17 years.
Engineers are optimistic that the HST will be back online soon.

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