Spaceflight Insider

Chandra X-Ray Observatory back in service after anomaly

NASA image of the Chandra X-Ray Telescope in space

NASA image of the Chandra X-Ray Telescope in space

With the potential loss of two of the Great Observatories, NASA and the teams working on the space-based telescopes have demonstrated their resilience in the face of adversity and brought one back into service and closing in on doing the same for the other.

At 9:55 a.m. EDT (13:55 GMT) on October 10, the Chandra Space Telescope encountered an anomaly with one of the gyroscopes that help point the space-based observatory in the direction required for its mission. On October 21, about 11 days after it had been placed into safe mode, engineers on the ground had the vehicle ready to restart scientific operations.

Getting the spacecraft to resume its observations required a procedure to enable a new gyroscope configuration for Chandra. The team directed the telescope to carry out a series of maneuvers to make sure the gyros were operating within normal parameters.

As is the case with the multi-million dollar missions that are sent into space, those who care for these vehicles conduct a series of checkouts to make sure things are back to normal and to align the gyro into the proper configuration. Once this is completed a software patch will be sent up to Chandra to adjust the telescope’s on-board computer.

Earlier this month, the flagship of the Great Observatories fleet, the Hubble Space Telescope also went into safe mode and the issue also involved one of the Hubble’s gyros. The team that operates and maintains that telescope have been working to have Hubble resume science operations by having the spacecraft use a backup gyro.



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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