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After 37 years, Voyager 1 has fired up its trajectory thrusters

05 December, 2017, 01:49 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • NASA fires up Voyager 1 backup thrusters after 37 years

The attitude control thrusters now used for Voyager 2 are not yet as degraded as Voyager 1's, however. NASA's Voyager 1 launched way back in 1977, but it's still in touch with Earth.

The MR-103 thrusters, provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are created to fire in pulses to rotate the spacecraft and keep its 12-foot (3.7-metre) antenna pointed at Earth, but engineers have noticed more firings were needed recently, indicating the jets were losing some of their performance.

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

Nasa had grown anxious about the altitude control thrusters on Voyager 1, which have been wearing down. Using the thrusters will take some extra energy, a precious commodity for the aging spacecraft, but NASA says the maneuver will add a few years to the mission's life. Since both Voyager 1 and 2 are supposed to last billions of years, the mementos of Earth that they carry could eventually be the only surviving trace of human life.

"We got more excited with each milestone in the thruster test". Yesterday, NASA announced that it has successfully fired up four of Voyager 1's backup thrusters, which haven't been used since 1980, which should extend its life by a couple of years.

The TCM thrusters were last fired on November 8, 1980, on approach to Saturn, and Voyager 1 used the miniature rocket engines in a more continuous firing mode, not in individual pulses as needed now, NASA officials said.

Voyager 1's primary thrusters have been degrading in the last few years, NASA said in a statement.




Man, they just don't build 'em like they used to. But this past Tuesday, engineers fired them up anyway, and after 19 hours of waiting for the results to transmit from Voyager's antenna to Earth, they learned that it actually worked.

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

"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. When there is no longer enough power to operate the heaters, the team will switch back to the attitude control thrusters.

NASA will likely do a similar test of Voyager 2's TCM thrusters, which could be used if that spacecraft's attitude control thrusters further degrade in the future.

This artist's depiction imagines what Voyager 1 looked like when crossing into interstellar space.

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