Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years

Cesar Mills
December 6, 2017

Despite being NASA's "fastest and furthest" spacecraft, however, the last time it fired its main boosters was 37 years ago when it steered past Saturn.

The satellite relies on "attitude control" thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth using the Deep Space Network.

On Friday, NASA engineers were able to successfully fire Voyager 1's backup thrusters - for the first time in 37 years.

Finally, they all agreed on one possible solution - try to make the over 40-years-old thrusters work so that the spacecraft, situated 13 billion miles away from Earth, can start its orientation. Voyager is now 13 billion miles from Earth, with transmissions taking 19 hours and 35 minutes each way. Projected in September 1977, the plutonium controlled investigation confronted Jupiter and its moons in March 1979, and then glided by Saturn in November 1980, prior to making way towards northward out of the ecliptic plane, the indistinguishable Voyager 2 spacecraft made around of Jupiter and Saturn, then went on to traverse Uranus and Neptune.

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The following day, they learned the thrusters worked perfectly.

"The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters", said the chief engineer of JPL, Chris Jones. With this example before them, NASA laid a more ambitious message aboard Voyager 1 and 2, a kind of time capsule, meant to relate a story of our world to aliens. The team was delighted when the results of their test were resoundingly positive.

More detail on the TCM thrusters can be found here. The attitude control thrusters now used for Voyager 2 are not yet as diminished as Voyager 1's, however. The "attitude control thrusters" have been in decline since 2014, and are now wasting more propellant than ever. At 13 billion miles from earth, the response from Voyager 1 takes 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach the Voyager team, even when the signal travels at the speed of light.

The last time these engines were run in 1980. Now, NASA is planning to switch the TCM thrusters on again in January. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Other reports by GizPress

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