When the equipment encountered a fault, through observation, analysis of the problem performance to confirm the cause, disassembly and replacement parts can be completed repair. But for NASA engineers, this is often unrealistic. When spacecraft, satellites or space probes fail, they have to find out what went wrong and tell them how to get back to normal, which is a tricky process. Fortunately, NASA has a wealth of experience.
Voyager 2 has been roaming space for more than 40 years, and it has been around for years, and it has begun to experience problems caused by aging. NASA reported that engineers were working to get the probe back into normal operation, and that the current failure caused the spacecraft to lock itself in safe mode.
Voyager 2 failed to perform its scheduled maneuver on Saturday, January 25, and had planned to rotate 360 degrees to calibrate its magnetic instrument, but for some reason the operation was delayed. This, in turn, means that two specialpower-hungry systems will run at the same time, running out of available power.
Because it is not possible to accurately send 11.5 billion miles (18.5 billion kilometers) of signal to the detector, Voyager 2 is designed to prevent any permanent damage by automatically responding to these conditions by entering low-power mode. Engineers at NASA headquarters can then communicate with the spacecraft to try to solve the problem.
Voyager’s power supply comes from the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which converts heat from the decay of radioactive material into electrical energy to power the spacecraft. Due to the natural decay of RTG internal materials, Voyager 2’s power budget is reduced by about 4 watts per year. Last year, engineers shut down the main heater of the Voyager 2 Cosmic Ray Subsystem instrument to compensate for this power loss, and the instrument continued to operate.
In addition to managing the power supply for each traveler, mission operators must also manage the temperature of certain systems on the spacecraft. For example, if the spacecraft’s fuel lines freeze and rupture, Voyager will no longer be able to point its antenna to Earth to send data and receive commands. Maintain the temperature of the spacecraft by using heaters or by utilizing excess heat generated by other airborne instruments and systems.
The team spent several days assessing the situation, largely because of Voyager 2’s distance from Earth (about 11.5 billion miles (18.5 billion kilometers). Communications traveling at the speed of light take about 17 hours to reach the spacecraft, while the shuttle’s response takes another 17 hours to return to Earth. As a result, mission engineers had to wait about 34 hours to determine whether their command had the desired effect on the spacecraft.
In an update released on February 5, NASA said: “Mission operators report that Voyager II remains stable and that communication with Earth remains stable. The spacecraft has now resumed its scientific mission, and the scientific team is now evaluating the health of the instrument after a brief shutdown. “
This is obviously good news, but it is also a reminder of how incredible Voyager 2’s technology is. We’re talking about a machine that started in the 1970s and is still running to this day, returning valuable data as it flees the solar system and flies into the unknown.