A Hubble Space Telescope status report


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Five years after the last shuttle repair mission, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to operate almost perfectly.

Jeletic said other than a single gyro failure, the observatory is operating in near-flawless fashion five years after the final shuttle crew departed. “Batteries are fine, solar arrays are fine, all the communications equipment is fine, we don’t see any glitches with the computers, the instruments are all fine,” he said. “In fact, an interesting statistic, the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which was repaired by the astronauts during the last servicing mission, that’s actually now run longer on the repair than it did originally for the Wide Field Camera part of it.”

The ACS, like the repaired Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, no longer has any internal redundancy. “It’s amazing. It truly is,” Jeletic said. “Given all the things that can fail, a lot of people were hoping for one or two years of continued work with it. Now we’ve gotten over five.” Likewise, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, which also is operating in “single-string” mode, is still going strong.

When they completed the 2009 servicing mission, the goal was to give Hubble five more years of operation. They’ve done that, and are now looking to keep the telescope going till at least 2020, marking 30 years in orbit.

The only issue, not surprisingly, is the failure of one of the six gyros on board. These have traditionally been the telescope’s biggest problem, and have been replaced twice over during shuttle missions. Three of today’s six however are using a new design which will hopefully extend their life significantly.

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