NASA nails test on voyager spacecraft, 13 billion miles away

NASA nails test on voyager spacecraft, 13 billion miles away

28, propulsion engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory fired Voyager 1's trajectory correction maneuver thrusters to keep its antenna aligned with Earth.

These small backup thrusters use hydrazine propellant and could be vital to extending Voyager 1's mission.

NASA's Voyager 1 has been drifting farther and farther away from our planet for the past 40 years.

A set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft, the only human-made object in interstellar space, have been successfully fired up after 37 years without use, United States space agency NASA said.

All of Voyager's thrusters were developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Jupiter & moons Io, Europa, Ganymede & Callisto, as depicted by Voyager spacecraft. It orients itself by firing several 10-millisecond puffs with its thrusters - problem is, the ones it regularly uses haven't been performing as well after four decades in space.

As of August, Voyager 1 was almost 13 billion miles from Earth, and Voyager 2 about 11 billion miles out.

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"The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test".

But over the course of decades, those thrusters have gradually become degraded to the point that they require more and more puffs to deliver the same attitude adjustments. Voyager 1 also has "trajectory correction maneuver" thrusters or TCMs, but they worked differently and were used for a different objective, despite having the same build.

To the team's excitement, not only did the TCM thrusters work for attitude control, they worked just as well as the thrusters that had been intended for the goal.

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

NASA reports that it feels the test went so well that it will most likely do the same for the Voyager 2 spacecraft. Voyager 1 is farther from Earth than Voyager 2, due to differences in their missions and trajectories, at an estimated 141 AU from Earth (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the sun). The team intends to conduct the same operation with Voyager 2, which is expected to leave the solar system within the next few years.

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