NASA news: Voyager 2 interstellar spacecraft recovers from glitch
Space probe Voyager 2 was launched by NASA on August 20, 1977, on its mission to study the outer planets. Part of the Voyager program, the craft was launched 16 days before its twin, Voyager 1, on a trajectory that took longer to reach Jupiter and Saturn but enabled further encounters with Uranus and Neptune.
In November last year, Voyager 2 officially reached interstellar space, 11.5 billion miles (18.5 billion km) from Earth.
The five operating science instruments … are back on and returning normal science data
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab
The NASA probe became the second human-made object to exit the heliosphere, the Sun’s protective bubble around the Solar System.
Voyager 2 followed in the footsteps of twin spacecraft Voyager 1, which first reached interstellar space in 2012.
However, in January, the probe experienced a serious glitch affected an array of crucial scientific instruments.
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But NASA has now announced the record-breaking spacecraft is back online.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab wrote in an update: “The five operating science instruments, which were turned off by the spacecraft’s fault protection routine, are back on and returning normal science data.”
That means any communications take 17 whole hours to reach it, according to NASA — and another 17 to make it back.
The almost incomprehensible distance involved meant the task of solving the issue was extremely difficult.
The glitch was caused by a “fault protection software routine” after Voyager 2 failed to calibrate itself by spinning around its axis on January 25.
Two systems were left running at relatively high levels of power, causing the spacecraft to “overdraw its available power supply.”
NASA announced the news by joking Voyager 1 was glad to have its twin back online.
NASA’s official Voyager account tweeted: “All right now, baby, it’s all right now!
“My twin, Voyager 2, is back to normal operations.”
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NASA’s deep space antenna upgrades to affect Voyager communications:
The news of the fix coincided with more news NASA will improve future spacecraft communications with Voyager.
Starting in this month, NASA’s Voyager 2 will continue hurting through interstellar space without receiving commands from Earth.
This is because Voyager’s primary means of communication, the Deep Space Network’s 230ft-wide (70m) radio antenna in Canberra, Australia, will undergo critical upgrades for approximately 11 months.
During this time, the Voyager team will still be able to receive science data from Voyager 2 on its mission to explore the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain and beyond.
The dish has been in continual service for 48 years and some parts of the antenna, including the transmitters that send commands to various spacecraft, are increasingly unreliable.
The Deep Space Network (DSN) upgrades are planned to start now that Voyager 2 has returned to normal operations, after accidentally overdrawing its power supply and automatically turning off its science instruments in January.
The network is spread over three sites around the world, in California, Spain and Australia.
This allows navigators to communicate with spacecraft at the Moon and beyond at all times during Earth’s rotation.
Voyager 2 is flying in a downward direction relative to Earth’s orbital plane, where it can be seen only from the southern hemisphere and can therefore can communicate only with the Australian site.
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