NASA engineers fix Voyager 1 telemetry transmit glitch • The Register


NASA knows the “how” but not the why of a telemetry data routing snafu that sent “unreadable” information about the position of the 45-year-old Voyager 1 probe to mission controllers on the ground.

The space agency’s engineers announced a fix to the problem last night, saying they had discovered the data was being sent to the wrong place altogether — an onboard computer that the team said “stopped working years ago,” which then “corrupted.” ” the information.”

Calling the solution from billions of miles away the “ultimate telesurgery,” Voyager propulsion engineer Todd Barber said the team was “elated” after being left “stunned” at the posture control’s nonsensical telemetry. “We were unable to get any health and safety information about the spacecraft aiming or the operation of the thruster,” he noted.

Ground crews need data from the venerable 1970s probe’s AACS (Attitude Articulation and Control System) to control the spacecraft’s orientation. One of the most critical functions of AACS is to keep Voyager 1’s high-gain antenna pointed right at Earth or else it won’t send data home.

When the problem first emerged in “March or April,” Pasadena techs were quick to point out that the spacecraft, which entered interstellar space in 2012, is currently the farthest man-made object from Earth. , functioned normally.

It received commands from Earth and executed them, as well as collecting and returning scientific data, all without any signal compromise, suggesting those AACS readings were actually in good shape. The team said at the time the data they received didn’t really match “any possible state the AACS might be in,” adding, “Voyager 1’s signal has not been attenuated either, suggesting the high gain antenna in its prescribed orientation with the Earth.”

Voyager’s project manager, Suzanne Dodd, said that because the team had suspicions about the underlying problem, they chose to try a low-risk solution: instruct the AACS to send the data to the correct computer — which confirmed their position as it apparently worked.

It’s not yet known why the probe started sending telemetry to the wrong box, but NASA says it likely received an erroneous command generated by another on-board computer. “If so, it would indicate that there is a problem elsewhere on the spacecraft,” the JPL team added, saying it would continue to look for the underlying problem, but didn’t think it was a “problem.” threat” to long-term health.

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The fact that 45 years later we are still receiving data from the spacecraft, currently 22.5 billion kilometers (14 billion miles, or about 20 light hours) from Earth, is extraordinary, and some of the original team members were on hand to check it yesterday. discuss .

Voyager probe.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA builds for livelihood: Voyager mission still going after 45 years


Propulsion engineer Barber listed the current problems with the craft. “We lose 4 watts [of power] a year on the spacecraft; things are insanely cold; the propellant pipes are about to freeze; we’ve had issues with computer chips,” he said, adding that it was “kind of like driving an old car — they’re geriatric by NASA standards, and it’s the hardest technique I’ve done in my entire career, but also the most fun.”

Launched in 1977 and fitted with a 3.7-meter-wide (12ft) radio antenna dish, the probe was originally designed to last the five years the agency thought it would take to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn, the rings of Saturn and the larger moons of the two planets.

The register thought it was interesting that the telemetry problem was revealed in May, but when Voyager engineers showed up live yesterday, it seems it started much earlier, in March or April, leaving us wondering how the inquiry process for information is even on experienced craft . Barber also noted that “we announced the fix today.”

Speaking more broadly about Voyager’s resilience, Deputy Project Scientist Linda Spilker said during the live Q&A yesterday, “All computers are redundant on Voyager and we knew from a previous Pioneer flight past Jupiter that Jupiter’s radiation environment was quite harsh. So we did a lot of things to harden the two Voyagers and it served them well, not just for their Jupiter flights, but now in interstellar space, where that cosmic rays or high-energy rays are greater — that extra little protection is on the way. still work.”

When was the last time you did some troubleshooting with 1970s technology? Let us know in the comments below. ®

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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