Another NASA Space Telescope Has Gone Into "Safe Mode"

NASA's Kepler Planet Hunting Space Telescope Wakes Up Again

It was October 10, when the Chandra X-ray observatory acquired the safe mode at around 10:55 AM of ET time zone.

On Monday, NASA reported that a glitch in one of Chandra's gyroscopes created a domino effect throughout the facility: A three-second period of bad data led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum, which ultimately triggered safe mode.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory went into a protective safe mode Wednesday (Oct. 10) because one of its orientation-maintaining gyroscopes was on the fritz, NASA officials announced today (Oct. 15). The Chandra observatory utilizes the X-ray technology to constantly look for supernova remnant and black holes, among the rest of the things.

The incredible spacecraft boasts what NASA describes as "the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed", and it is now among the most powerful telescopes in the world.

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory was launched into space in 1999.

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Meanwhile, the US space agency said that it continues to work towards resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope.

The good news here is that the spacecraft entered safe mode successfully, which is what it's created to do in such circumstances, so at least that part of the observatory is functioning as intended.

Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also nearly out of fuel. The Hubble Space Telescope will continue to be in safe mode until the space agency has figured out its next step of action.

During the safe mode, the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun. NASA said the issue could involve a failed gyroscope. "All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe", it added.

An anomaly review board was formed to find the cause of these issues and try to fix them. 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".

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