Voyager 1 Thrusters Fires Up First Time Since 1980

Voyager 1 Thrusters Fires Up First Time Since 1980

The space agency made the decision to engage these thrusters after another set normally used to reorient the craft stopped functioning.

The thrusters are used to orient itself so it is capable of continuing to send back communications to Earth.

Voyager 1 is about 13 billion miles from Earth right now.

As humanity's first visitor to interstellar space, NASA's Voyager 1 has revealed itself to be a trooper, answering commands that take nearly 20 hours to arrive, and performing routine tasks and transmitting data back (another 20-hour one-way call) to the home planet.

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

Being able to use the backup thrusters means the lifespan of Voyager 1 has been extended by two or three years, added Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager.

In the early days of this mission, Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, Saturn, and major moons of each.

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

"The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters", said Chris Jones of JPL.

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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.

And even after Voyager 1 dies - or if we lose contact with it - the spacecraft is ready to achieve great things. And the thrusters had never been tested for the 10-millisecond "puffs" needed for reorientation.

USA space agency NASA has said 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.

According to NASA's press release regarding this unexpected accomplishment, Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Todd Barber described the mood when the long-dormant thrusters successfully turned on as one of "joy" and surprise.

Aerojet Rocketdyne developed all of the Voyager's thrusters.

The Voyager team now wants to change over to the TCM thrusters in January, during a process where the spacecraft has to switch on a heater for each thruster, which needs power - a scarce resource for this aging mission.

The thruster test went so well; the team will likely do a similar analysis on the TCM thrusters for Voyager 2, the counterpart spacecraft of Voyager 1. Voyager 1 was already operating on its backup branch of attitude control thrusters.

It is expected that in the year 40,272, Voyager 1 will come within 1.7 light years of an obscure star in the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Bear or Little Dipper) and in about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will come within about 1.7 light years of a star called Ross 248, a small star in the constellation of Andromeda.

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