Continuing technology glitches aboard the Hubble Space Telescope -- this time balky gyroscopes -- may push the National Aeronautics and Space Administration into an emergency rescue mission a year sooner than the planned 1993 flight to fix flawed optics.
Project managers may face a Hobson's choice: fix the gyroscopes, whose complete failure would end the Hubble's usefulness, and live with the degraded performance of the flawed main mirror, or gamble that neither the gyroscopes nor the oscillating solar arrays will fail so catastrophically they cut short Hubble's life.
Manufacturing has begun on a new Wide-Field Planetary Camera and a 700-pound "costar," which is to place postage-stamp-sized mirrors in front of some of the Hubble's cameras to correct its myopic vision. The European Space Agency, which built the solar arrays, is working on versions to eliminate the panels' frustrating flexing as the Hubble moves in and out of sunlight. Both of those efforts were targeted for a late-1993 or early-1994 launch date. Whether NASA and the European agency can ready the complex hardware for a late-1992 emergency gyroscope repair is questionable. Besides, NASA lacks funds for two repair flights.