Engineers are working to fix a mysterious glitch on the Voyager 1 probe

(ORDO NEWS) — In May, NASA scientists said the Voyager 1 spacecraft was sending inaccurate data from its attitude control system. The mysterious failure is still ongoing, according to the mission’s engineering team.

Now, engineers are digging through decade-old manuals to find a solution.

Voyager 1, along with its twin Voyager 2, was launched in 1977 with an estimated lifetime of 5 years to study Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their moons at close range.

After nearly 45 years in space, both ships are still operational. In 2012, Voyager 1 became the first man-made object to travel beyond our Sun’s influence, known as the heliopause, and into interstellar space. It is now about 14.5 billion miles from Earth and is sending data from outside the solar system.

“No one thought it would last this long,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for the Voyager mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, adding, “And here we are.”

Excavation of old documents on the spacecraft

Voyager 1 was designed and built in the early 1970s, complicating efforts to fix problems with the spacecraft.

While Voyager’s current engineers have some documentation or command media, a technical term for documents containing detailed information about spacecraft design and procedures from those early days of the mission, other important documents may have been lost or misplaced.

During the first 12 years of the Voyager mission, Dodd said thousands of engineers worked on the project.

“Because they retired in the 70s and 80s, there wasn’t much of a need to have a design documentation library. boxes home to your garage,” Dodd added. On modern missions, NASA maintains more reliable documentation records.

There are several drawers of documents and diagrams stored outside the JPL, and Dodd and the rest of Voyager’s handlers can request access to them. records. However, this can be a problem.

“Getting this information requires you to find out who is working in this area on the project,” Dodd said.

In connection with the latest failure of Voyager 1, mission engineers had to specifically look for boxes with the names of engineers who helped design the attitude control system. “It’s a laborious process,” Dodd said.

Source of error

The spacecraft’s attitude control system, which sends telemetry data back to NASA, indicates Voyager 1’s attitude in space. and holds the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna pointed toward Earth, allowing it to transmit data home.

“Telemetry data is essentially the health of the system,” Dodd said. But the telemetry data spacecraft operators receive from the system is skewed, Dodd said, meaning they don’t know if the attitude control system is working properly.

So far, Voyager engineers don’t know anything. “Couldn’t find the root cause of the failure, mostly because they weren’t able to reboot the system,” Dodd said. Dodd and her team believe it has to do with aging. “Not everything works forever, even in space,” she said.

Voyager’s failure could also be affected by its location in interstellar space. The spacecraft data suggests high-energy charged particles are in interstellar space, Dodd said.

“It’s unlikely that one of them hit the spacecraft, but if it did, it could cause more damage to the electronics,” Dodd said, adding, “We can’t pinpoint this as the source of the anomaly, but it could be a factor.”

Despite problems with the orientation of the spacecraft, it still receives and executes commands. away from Earth, while its antenna is still pointed at us.

“We are not seeing any degradation in signal strength,” Dodd said.

Voyager 1’s journey continues

As part of ongoing power management efforts that have intensified in recent years, engineers have turned off non-technical systems aboard the Voyager probes, such as science instrument heaters, in the hope that they will be operational until 2030. p>

From the discovery of unknown moons and rings to the first direct evidence of the existence of the heliopause, the Voyager mission has helped scientists understand the cosmos as well.

“We want the mission to last as long as possible because scientific data is very valuable,” Dodd said.

“It’s really great that both spacecraft are still up and running well – little glitches, but running very well and still sending this valuable data,” Dodd said, adding: “They’re still talking to us. .”

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