NASA fires Voyager 1's thrusters for first time in 37 years

NASA fires Voyager 1's thrusters for first time in 37 years

NASA fires Voyager 1's thrusters for first time in 37 years

United States space agency NASA has successfully fired up a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft after 37 years of being unused. We've learned about Jupiter's moons, Saturn's rings, Neptune's winds - all thanks to Voyager 1.

Voyager 1 left our solar system in August 2012 and entered interstellar space and is sending data back through NASA's Deep Space Network.

Artist's concept of the Voyager 1 spacecraft. To indeed fly by and point the spacecraft's instruments at a buffet of targets, engineers used "trajectory correction maneuver", thrusters that are indistinguishable in size and functionality to the attitude control thrusters, and are found on the back side of the probe.

At present, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is 21 billion kilometers from Earth, or about 141 times the distance between the Earth and Sun. They got their answer 19 hours and 35 minutes later, the time it took for the results to reach Earth: The set of four thrusters worked perfectly. Voyager 2 will join Voyager 1 in interstellar space in a few years, so discovering another way of reorienting these probes is a valuable technique for the future. These backup thrusters will give Voyager an extra year or two of life, before it loses connection with its home planet and disappears into the abyss of space.

So, to recap: these thrusters have sat in disuse since Jimmy Carter was president, they aren't designed for this sort of task, and they're a baker's dozen billion miles away. Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. And the thrusters had never been tested for the 10-millisecond "puffs" needed for reorientation.

In order to keep the spacecraft running, its thrusters have to function properly, but engineers weren't sure if the small devices were going to work considering they hadn't been used since November 1980.

NASA plans to switch over to the formerly dormant thrusters in January.

Barber, a JPL propulsion engineer, said that the Voyager team got more thrilled each time with each milestone in the thruster experiment.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both.

Although the Voyager 1's twin spacecraft-Voyager 2-launched just 16 days after Voyager 1, its standard thrusters appear to be in much better shape, NASA officials wrote. This finding prompted NASA engineers at the JPL in Pasadena, California to examine the issue. The attitude control thrusters now used for Voyager 2 are not yet as diminished as Voyager 1's, however. California. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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