Published On: Sat, Dec 2nd, 2017

NASA successfully fires up Voyeger 1’s thrusters after 37 years

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Nasa’s Voyager 1 spacecraft — cruising interstellar space billions of miles from Earth — was back on the right track Friday thanks to thrusters that were fired up for the first time in 37 years.

The unmanned spaceship was launched along with its twin, Voyager 2, more than 40 years ago to explore the outer planets of our solar system, traveling further than any human-made object in history.

But after decades of operation, the “attitude control thrusters” that turn the spacecraft by firing tiny “puffs” had degraded. The small adjustments are needed to turn Voyager’s antenna toward Earth, allowing it to continue sending communications.

“At 13 billion miles from Earth, there’s no mechanic shop nearby to get a tune-up,” Nasa said in a news release.

The Voyager 1’s propulsion system has two kinds of thrusters to help it steer through space — Altitude Control Thrusters (ACT) and Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre thrusters (TCM). The ACT is responsible for keeping the antenna aligned towards Earth so as to let Voyager 1 ‘talk’ to NASA scientists. These thrusters use tiny puffs of energy to adjust the alignment of the spacecraft. Since 2014, NASA has observed that the ACT has been degrading, i.e. they are running out of energy. This could have shortened the life of the spacecraft, letting it out of reach of us earthlings.

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