NASA's Chandra Observatory Back in Action

Space										
		
																	Now there’s something wrong with NASA’s Chandra spacecraft too					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner			@MikeW

NASA is definitely having a hard time with its telescopes.

Chandra is part of NASA's Great Observatories Program, which launched four powerful space telescopes from 1990 to 2003: the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) in 1991 and the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2003.

NASA announced on Monday it traced the cause to a gyroscope glitch that generated "a three-second period of bad data that in turn led the onboard computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum".

NASA's rough month is improving somewhat: the American space agency is spinning up a spare gyroscope to bring the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory back online by the end of the week, and it reckons it can wake the Hubble Space Telescope soon. The Observatory has been observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999. NASA still does not know why the spacecraft transitioned to safe mode.

An artist's rendition of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in orbit around Earth.

Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also nearly out of fuel.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990, has also entered hibernation and halted science operations. The Hubble Space Telescope will continue to be in safe mode until the space agency has figured out its next step of action. After Hubble's gyroscope malfunction, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory has reportedly transitioned to safe mode for unknown reasons.

On October 10, Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which 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 Hubble would still be able to provide science "well into the 2020s".

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

Officials were quick to point out that "all systems functioned as expected" in the abrupt transition, and "the scientific instruments are safe".

Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted that there is a "clear pathway to recovery" for Chandra.

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