Voyager 1 fires up its thrusters after 37 years

Voyager 1’s thrusters still after 37 years of sleep

NASA receives transmission from a spacecraft that's 13 billion miles away from Earth

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, USA space agency NASA said.

In order to keep the spacecraft running, its thrusters have to function properly, but engineers weren't sure if the small devices were going to work considering they hadn't been used since November 1980.

Yet Voyager 1, NASA's furthest-travelled spacecraft, has just fired up a set of thrusters that haven't been used for 37 years.

Nasa has picked up a transmission from a spacecraft that's 13 billion miles away from Earth.

Experts in NASA agreed on an unusual solution: Try giving the job of orientation to a set of thrusters that had been asleep for last 37 years.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched 16 days apart in 1977.

According to NASA, the test last Wednesday saw the probe fire the TCM thrusters for 10 milliseconds in a series of pulses that demonstrated that they were capable of taking over the task of attitude control.

Still, the team though the TCM thrusters might suit their purposes, so on November 28, they made a decision to fire them up with 10-millisecond pulses to test if they could be a viable replacement for the almost spent thrusters.

More detail on the TCM thrusters can be found here. The team was delighted when the results of their test were resoundingly positive.

When there is no longer enough power to operate the heaters, the team will switch back to the attitude control thrusters. One interesting aspect of this was that the team waiting to hear a response on the thrusters had to wait 19 hours and 35 minutes for it to reach a Deep Space Network antenna located in California. "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", Jones' colleague, Todd Barber, added. The operations will continue over the next month, and the whole process could extend the spacecraft's life by two to three years. 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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