The Hubble Space Telescope has returned to normal science operations after the replacement of a defective gyroscope.
Hubble returned to normal operations on Friday following an extended period out-of-service while NASA engineers replaced the defective gyroscope with a back-up, and then had to perform a number of operations in order to get the replacement gyroscope working normally.
The replacement gyroscope, the engineers found, was suffering from unusually high rotation rates, which needed to be brought down to the expected range.
The gyroscopes are an essential part of Hubble. They are required to help stabilise and point the Telescope, enabling it to lock-on to targets selected by NASA astronomers.
On Saturday, after the Hubble Space Telescope had been cleared for a return to service, NASA scientists conducted observations of the distant, star-forming galaxy DSF2237B-1-IR, taken in infrared wavelength's using Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 instrument.
The fix for the replacement gyroscope involved performing a number of manoeuvres to clear the device of suspected debris caught-up in its mechanism. These manoeuvres were performed last week and led to a "significant reduction" in the unusually high rates of spin the device was exhibiting.
Following further tests, the Hubble Space Telescope was cleared for a return to service.
The way the gyroscopes work are as follows, according to NASA: "A wheel inside the gyro spins at a constant rate of 19,200 revolutions per minute. This wheel is mounted in a sealed cylinder, called a float, which is suspended in a thick fluid.
"Electricity is carried to the motor by thin wires, approximately the size of a human hair, that are immersed in the fluid. Electronics within the gyro detect very small movements of the axis of the wheel and communicate this information to Hubble's central computer.
"These gyros have two modes - high and low. High mode is a coarse mode used to measure large rotation rates when the spacecraft turns across the sky from one target to the next. Low mode is a precision mode used to measure finer rotations when the spacecraft locks onto a target and needs to stay very still."
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