from the delaying-the-inevitable dept.
After going into Fault Protection Mode on January 28th, Voyager 2 will soon return to normal operation.
On January 25th, Voyager 2 was instructed to perform a magnetometer calibration maneuver which would cause the spacecraft to rotate itself a full 360 degrees, however the maneuver was delayed causing two power hungry systems to be on simultaneously. The maneuver was not completed.
There's a tight power budget on Voyager 2, because its radioisotope thermoelectric generators are running down. To protect itself, the spacecraft went into its fault-protection mode. In that mode, it shut down scientific instruments to make up for the power deficit. By January 28th, engineers had successfully shut down one of the two high-power-drawing systems, and turned its science instruments back on.
The probe is currently approximately 18.5 billion kilometers from Earth, with a time lag of 34 hours for signals to make a round trip.
Voyager 2 is still running, but its power situation is precarious. Mission engineers are constantly evaluating the status of the power system, and they know that it's losing about 4% of its power each year. A lot of power is needed to keep systems on the spacecraft from freezing, including fuel lines. If those lines froze, and broke, then Voyager 2 would no longer be able to point its antenna towards Earth, and the mission would effectively be over.
NASA Tweeted the following regarding the issue
An update on our twin @NASAVoyager spacecraft, still operating in interstellar space. After software designed to automatically protect it was triggered, engineers successfully turned Voyager 2's science instruments back on. Normal operations resume soon: https://t.co/UEvQBfMHJt pic.twitter.com/GUCZamVZ0Q
— NASA (@NASA) January 30, 2020
In the past NASA has indicated Voyager 2 will go dark in 'roughly 2020' so even though this isn't the end for the spacecraft, it is not far off.
Voyager 1 is still alive out there, barreling into the cosmos more than 15 billion miles away. However, a computer problem has kept the mission's loyal support team in Southern California from knowing much more about the status of one of NASA's longest-lived spacecraft.
The computer glitch cropped up on November 14, and it affected Voyager 1's ability to send back telemetry data, such as measurements from the spacecraft's science instruments or basic engineering information about how the probe was doing. [...] "It would be the biggest miracle if we get it back. We certainly haven't given up," said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in an interview with Ars. "There are other things we can try. But this is, by far, the most serious since I've been project manager."
Dodd became the project manager for NASA's Voyager mission in 2010, overseeing a small cadre of engineers responsible for humanity's exploration into interstellar space. Voyager 1 is the most distant spacecraft ever, speeding away from the Sun at 38,000 mph (17 kilometers per second). [...] The latest problem with Voyager 1 lies in the probe's Flight Data Subsystem (FDS), one of three computers on the spacecraft working alongside a command-and-control central computer and another device overseeing attitude control and pointing. [...] In November, the data packages transmitted by Voyager 1 manifested a repeating pattern of ones and zeros as if it were stuck, according to NASA. Dodd said engineers at JPL have spent the better part of three months trying to diagnose the cause of the problem. She said the engineering team is "99.9 percent sure" the problem originated in the FDS, which appears to be having trouble "frame syncing" data. [...] "It's likely somewhere in the FDS memory," Dodd said. "A bit got flipped or corrupted. But without the telemetry, we can't see where that FDS memory corruption is."
[...] "We have sheets and sheets of schematics that are paper, that are all yellowed on the corners, and all signed in 1974," Dodd said. "They're pinned up on the walls and people are looking at them. That's a whole story in itself, just how to get to the information you need to be able to talk about the commanding decisions or what the problem might be." [...] "It is difficult to command Voyager," Dodd said. "We don't have any type of simulator for this. We don't have any hardware simulator. We don't have any software simulator... There's no simulator with the FDS, no hardware where we can try it on the ground first before we send it. So that makes people more cautious, and it's a balance between getting commanding right and taking risks."
[...] The spacecraft's vast distance and position in the southern sky require NASA to use the largest 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at a Deep Space Network tracking site in Australia, one of the network's most in-demand antennas.
"The data rates are very low, and this anomaly causes us not to have any telemetry," Dodd said. "We're kind of shooting in the blind a little bit because we don't know what the status of the spacecraft is completely."
Previously on SoylentNews:
Engineers Work to Fix Voyager 1 Computer - 20231215