Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chandra X-ray Observatory Returns to Science Operations

Illustration of the Chandra X-ray Observatory in Earth orbit. Credits: NASA

On the evening of October 21, Chandra returned to science observations after the team successfully carried out a procedure to enable a new gyroscope configuration for the spacecraft. The team initiated a set of maneuvers to change the pointing and orientation of the spacecraft to confirm that the gyroscopes were behaving as expected.

During the coming week, scientists will collect spacecraft data to fine-tune the performance for the new gyroscope configuration. As a final step, the team will uplink a software patch to apply any necessary adjustments to the on-board computer.

The cause of Chandra's safe mode was identified October 15 and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode. The safe mode was caused by a glitch in one of Chandra's gyroscopes resulting in a 3-second period of bad data that in turn led the on-board computer to calculate an incorrect value for the spacecraft momentum. The erroneous momentum indication then triggered the safe mode.

Chandra is 19 years old, which is well beyond the original design lifetime of 5 years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years. It is now well into its extended mission and is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is part of NASA's fleet of "Great Observatories" along with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitizer Space Telescope and the now deorbited Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Chandra allows scientists from around the world to obtain X-ray images of exotic environments to help understand the structure and evolution of the universe.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory program is managed by NASA's Marshall Center for the Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Mass., is responsible for the conduct of the day-to-day flight operations and science activities from the Operations Control Center and Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) facilities. The CXC Web site is the primary resource for information on the Chanda X-ray Observatory mission.

Credit: NASA

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