Monday, 18 December, 2017

NASA nails test on Voyager spacecraft, 13 billion miles away

This rendering provided by NASA shows Voyager 1. NASA has nailed a thruster test on Voyager 1 a spacecraft 13 billion miles away. Last week ground controllers sent commands to fire backup thrusters on Voyager 1 humanity’s most distant spacecraft. The Voyager 1's thrusters still after 37 years of sleep
Frank Williams | 05 December, 2017, 02:52

The Voyager 1 probe has been zooming through the void for 40 years and is the only human spacecraft travelling through interstellar space, the bleak expanse of nothingness between stars. NASA knew it needed to tweak its orientation in order to allow the craft to send and receive information, but that's much easier said than done, especially when the thrusters required to make that adjustment haven't even been woken up in almost four decades. It does need them, however, to orient itself in order to communicate with Earth.

The U.S. space agency reports in a news release that it was able to activate a set of four different backup thrusters on the farthest traveled spacecraft for the first time since 1980.

But after decades of operation, the "attitude control thrusters" that turn the spacecraft by firing tiny "puffs" had degraded. The spacecraft, which is now over 13 billion miles from Earth, moving at a speed of over 38,000 miles per hour, was recently asked to do something it hasn't done in over 37 years, and it somehow managed to actually pull it off.

The engineers fired up the thrusters on Tuesday and tested their ability to turn Voyager using 10-millisecond pulses.

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NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has propelled a set of four control thrusters in the first place in 37 years granting the enduring enquiry, a novel method to point itself on its cruise into interstellar space 13 billion miles from Earth. The team was delighted when the results of their test were resoundingly positive. NASA scientists and propulsion experts weren't also sure if the thrusters would work in short bursts, if they worked at all.

"The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all". The trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) thrusters, which have not been used for 37 years, were brought back into play to take over the job.

The plan going forward is to switch to the TCM thrusters in January, it said.

Now travelling far outside our solar system, and with its primary thrusters on their last legs, NASA made a decision to conduct a test on its long-rested back-up system. Astronomy textbooks were rewritten on a wide scale thanks to the Voyager spacecraft, which zoomed past Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus.

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