NASA Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory he encountered difficulties after 17 years of mostly uninterrupted service. An orbiting researcher has entered safe mode after detecting a “possible malfunction” in one of the six reaction wheels used to change attitude. While it’s not clear what exactly (if anything) went wrong, NASA has stopped direction-based scientific observations until it can give everything clear or continue five-wheel operations.
This is the first potential problem with the reaction wheel since the Swift Observatory began operations in February 2005, NASA said. The rest of the vehicle normally works properly.
The Swift Observatory has played an important role in astronomy for the past two decades. It is primarily made for detection gamma ray explosions and detects approximately 70 per day. However, it is increasingly being used as a comprehensive observer at multiple wavelengths, spotting solar flares and stars that are hard to find. NASA will not necessarily run into serious problems if Swift has a permanent problem, but it would obviously benefit from the spacecraft running as smoothly as possible.
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