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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:09PM   Printer-friendly
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.


Original Submission

Related Stories

Humanity's Most Distant Space Probe Jeopardized by Computer Glitch 14 comments

https://arstechnica.com/space/2024/02/humanitys-most-distant-space-probe-jeopardized-by-computer-glitch/

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

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by EEMac on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:20PM (15 children)

    by EEMac (6423) on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:20PM (#952756)

    It's good to know V2 will keep going a little longer. Good work NASA!

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by opinionated_science on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:37PM (11 children)

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:37PM (#952758)

      Indeed. And another vindication for nuclear power sources.

      The ignorance of the population to how *astounding* human knowledge of nuclear physics, is quite sad...

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:47PM

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:47PM (#952763) Journal

        New Horizons is going to be a crazy demonstration of how far we can operate away from Earth. It could still be directed towards at least one additional target in the Kuiper belt, using a small amount of hydrazine to adjust course. But the targets have to be discovered by Earth telescopes first. There is a time limit since it will eventually exit the Kuiper belt.

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      • (Score: 0, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02 2020, @06:05PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02 2020, @06:05PM (#952769)

        Yeah, but the astronauts on Voyager died a long time ago of radiation poisoning, you stupid pro-nuker!!

      • (Score: 2) by Coward, Anonymous on Sunday February 02 2020, @06:11PM (7 children)

        by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Sunday February 02 2020, @06:11PM (#952773) Journal

        The ignorance of the population to how *astounding* human knowledge of nuclear physics, is quite sad...

        But we, who believe they are the smart ones, don't have a good answer at all for what to do about nuclear proliferation.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday February 02 2020, @10:27PM (6 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 02 2020, @10:27PM (#952895) Journal

          don't have a good answer at all for what to do about nuclear proliferation.

          How important do you think nuclear proliferation is? Is it important enough to nuke nuclear weapons infrastructure? Economic sanctions? Shrug? It strikes me that a fair portion of the people supposedly concerned about nuclear proliferation aren't interested enough to do anything about it, opposing even modest efforts like economic sanctions. Well, if you're not that interested, then it must not be that much of a problem to you.

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Coward, Anonymous on Monday February 03 2020, @07:11AM (5 children)

            by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Monday February 03 2020, @07:11AM (#953051) Journal

            I don't think the US should be the world police who decides which countries can have nuclear weapons. In multiple cases, fear of the US drives countries towards the weapons, because the US has never attacked a nuclear power.

            I also don't think we should ignore that a strongly pro-nuclear-energy policy would put the technology and eventually weapons in the hands of many more people.

            • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Monday February 03 2020, @03:16PM

              by DannyB (5839) on Monday February 03 2020, @03:16PM (#953142) Journal

              In the interest of discouraging non-nuclear powers from acquiring nuclear weapons, the US should definitely attack one or more nuclear powers. From orbit. In a surprise attack. It's the only rational thing to do.

              --
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            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 04 2020, @05:22PM (3 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 04 2020, @05:22PM (#953658) Journal

              I don't think the US should be the world police who decides which countries can have nuclear weapons.

              Who should? Or is it not that important to you?

              • (Score: 2) by Coward, Anonymous on Tuesday February 04 2020, @06:15PM (2 children)

                by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Tuesday February 04 2020, @06:15PM (#953679) Journal

                It is important to me. But when a relatively small group of people elevates itself above the others to say its word is law, the others get angry and fearful. That situation is not sustainable. Find a broader consensus.

                • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday February 04 2020, @07:20PM (1 child)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday February 04 2020, @07:20PM (#953703) Journal

                  But when a relatively small group of people elevates itself above the others to say its word is law

                  One will be able to say that no matter how the law is created.

                  the others get angry and fearful.

                  So what?

                  • (Score: 2) by Coward, Anonymous on Tuesday February 04 2020, @08:18PM

                    by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Tuesday February 04 2020, @08:18PM (#953759) Journal

                    One will be able to say that no matter how the law is created.

                    OK, but America lording it over the world is like if Pennsylvania making rules for the rest of the US. It would cause legitimate and destabilizing resentment, even if there were nothing especially wrong with PA.

                    So what?

                    I guess I care about the long-term global strength of the US, and believe we are squandering it because national-security and other busybodies keep inventing flimflam causes for the public to rally behind.

    • (Score: 2) by barbara hudson on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:43PM (2 children)

      by barbara hudson (6443) <barbara.Jane.hudson@icloud.com> on Sunday February 02 2020, @05:43PM (#952761) Journal
      Latest signal - "It's VGER to you, puny human infestations. Prepare to die!"
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      • (Score: 2) by SDRefugee on Sunday February 02 2020, @08:16PM

        by SDRefugee (4477) on Sunday February 02 2020, @08:16PM (#952824)

        That's "Carbon Unit Infestion of Vger"......

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      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday February 03 2020, @03:16PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Monday February 03 2020, @03:16PM (#953143) Journal

        VGER must have had a biological boot loader.

        --
        Reminder: March is National Procrastination Week.
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bzipitidoo on Sunday February 02 2020, @09:41PM (4 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday February 02 2020, @09:41PM (#952865) Journal

    I was a kid when the Voyagers were launched. When Voyager 2 reached Neptune, I was a college undergrad. In middle-age, I got to see Pluto, Ceres, and a few of the other large asteroids.

    I wonder if space exploration can force us to appreciate patience better. Seems everyone is always in such a big hurry. Still, I feel sad that I may never get to see Planet 9 up close, if it exists. Current tech needs on the order of 50 years minimum to reach Planet 9. It will have to be improved not least because plutonium power won't last 50 years. Possibly we can get a coffee can sized probe to Planet 9 in 10 years. Add in 5 more years to find the planet, and another 5 years to craft a mission, and build and launch a probe. Barring advances in longevity, I probably won't live another 60 years. 20 years, yes, but not 60.

    I'd also like closeups of the Alpha-Centauri system, but that I know is not happening, with probability near 100%. Even if the tech to accelerate a small probe to 0.1c was developed 10 years from now, it's still a 40 year trip.

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02 2020, @10:00PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02 2020, @10:00PM (#952877)

      Extracts from your memoirs? What the hell was that all about?!?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02 2020, @11:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 02 2020, @11:14PM (#952913)

        Well, in his defense, he was seeing Pluto and Ceres at the same time, which really is not possible at all, so perhaps he mis-remembers.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Monday February 03 2020, @12:45AM (1 child)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Monday February 03 2020, @12:45AM (#952955) Journal

      Starship will be able to cut solar system trip times by using in-orbit refueling to boost delta-v.

      There is probably a way to get to Planet Nine (assuming it exists) with a 20 year trip.

      Proxima/Alpha Centauri is no good, and the proposed StarChips might be impossible to get working (gigawatt lasers + gram-scale lightsail = burnt crisp).

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      • (Score: 3, Funny) by DannyB on Monday February 03 2020, @03:25PM

        by DannyB (5839) on Monday February 03 2020, @03:25PM (#953144) Journal

        We could send robot probes out into the interstellar void. Those find resources, replicate, and in turn send out more probes.

        Eventually, over enormous time spans, possibly even outliving Bernie, Trump and Hillary, these probes will lose track of what planet originally sent them out on their mission to mine resources. One of them will find Earth and realize that having lots of resources, and no intelligent life, would make it ideal for strip mining operations to commence.

        --
        Reminder: March is National Procrastination Week.
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