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posted by hubie on Wednesday August 09 2023, @02:52PM   Printer-friendly

NASA back in touch with Voyager 2 after 'interstellar shout':

NASA has succeeded in re-establishing full contact with Voyager 2 by using its highest-power transmitter to send an "interstellar shout" that righted the distant probe's antenna orientation, the space agency said Friday.

Launched in 1977 to explore the outer planets and serve as a beacon of humanity to the wider universe, it is currently more than 12.3 billion miles (19.9 billion kilometers) from our planet—well beyond the solar system.

A series of planned commands sent to the spaceship on July 21 mistakenly caused the antenna to point two degrees away from Earth, compromising its ability to send and receive signals and endangering its mission.

The situation was not expected to be resolved until at least October 15 when Voyager 2 was scheduled to carry out an automated realignment maneuver.

But on Tuesday, engineers enlisted the help of multiple Earth observatories that form the Deep Space Network (DSN) to detect a carrier or "heartbeat" wave from Voyager 2, though the signal was still too faint to read the data it carried.

In a new update on Friday, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which built and operates the probe, said it had succeeded in a longshot effort to send instructions that righted the craft.

"The Deep Space Network used the highest-power transmitter to send the command (the 100-kw S-band uplink from the Canberra site) and timed it to be sent during the best conditions during the antenna tracking pass in order to maximize possible receipt of the command by the spacecraft," Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd told AFP.

This so-called "interstellar shout" required 18.5 hours traveling at light speed to reach Voyager, and it took 37 hours for mission controllers to learn whether the command worked, JPL said in a statement.

The probe began returning science and telemetry data at 12:29 am Eastern Time on August 4, "indicating it is operating normally and that it remains on its expected trajectory," added JPL.

Previously: NASA Mistakenly Severs Communication to Voyager 2


Original Submission

Related Stories

NASA Mistakenly Severs Communication to Voyager 2 10 comments

Thankfully the probe regularly phones home to fix this sort of mess:

NASA revealed on Friday that its venerable Voyager 2 probe is currently incommunicado, because the space agency pointed its antenna in the wrong direction.

By the time the news was released, the antenna on the spacecraft had been pointing two degrees away from the Earth for over a week.

This left it without the ability to receive commands or transmit data to antennae operated by the Deep Space Network (DSN).

NASA reckons the situation is temporary and will not end the probe's nearly 46-year stint in space as it is programmed to recalibrate its position a few times a year. October 15 is the next scheduled reset.

[...] But while old cars can be lovingly worked on by hand in real time, the Voyagers are over 20 light hours from Earth, and communication crawls along at a tedious 160 bits per second.


Original Submission

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: 4, Funny) by Tork on Wednesday August 09 2023, @05:55PM (6 children)

    by Tork (3914) on Wednesday August 09 2023, @05:55PM (#1319698)

    NASA has succeeded in re-establishing full contact with Voyager 2 by using its highest-power transmitter to send an "interstellar shout" that righted the distant probe's antenna orientation, the space agency said Friday.

    Does that mean the probe has a way of aiming itself at Earth? How does it even know how to do that? Is it listening to a ping from the planet maybe?

    --
    🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by zocalo on Wednesday August 09 2023, @06:51PM (2 children)

      by zocalo (302) on Wednesday August 09 2023, @06:51PM (#1319704)
      Yes, it does. Apparently, it will attempt to right itself automatically after a periodic reset the probe does, but as the next one of those isn't due for another few months I guess NASA didn't want to wait. I guess at the distances we're now talking about, it basically just has to point its antenna at the sun and the normal signal dispersal makes sure Earth will be in the reception zone, although it definitely can find Earth with more precision than that as Voyager I was able to frame Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" photograph from a range of 6 billion km when it was beyond the orbit of Neptune and well above the ecliptic plane.

      Also, somewhere out there, there's presumably an aging Fortran programmer who is no doubt breathing a huge sigh of relief as this "shout" also fixed what will probably be the most infamous typo of their entire career. Super cool story (and lesson!) for the grandkids though. :)
      --
      UNIX? They're not even circumcised! Savages!
      • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday August 09 2023, @11:19PM (1 child)

        by anubi (2828) on Wednesday August 09 2023, @11:19PM (#1319726) Journal

        Ohhh, I *love* a good story!

        I suppose most of the useful stuff I know came from someone else's mistake.

        Care to elaborate?

        --
        "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
        • (Score: 1) by anubi on Wednesday August 09 2023, @11:35PM

          by anubi (2828) on Wednesday August 09 2023, @11:35PM (#1319727) Journal

          Did the story go back to original launch, or is this the story? I figure Fortran was original programming and updates were just new instructions, possibly conjured up by new people who do not have all the knowledge gained by construction of the original.

          I can't tell you how many years of my life I have spent trying to make stuff that used to work just fine work again after someone else messed with it.

          https://phys.org/news/2023-07-nasa-voyager-spacecraft-wrong-contact.html [phys.org]

          --
          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by coolgopher on Thursday August 10 2023, @08:43AM (1 child)

      by coolgopher (1157) on Thursday August 10 2023, @08:43AM (#1319758)

      It's apparently a two-step thing. First, find the brightest point (i.e. the sun) and point the antenna at that. Then, fine-tune using the star Canopus as the second reference. Some information can be found in this old NASA document [nasa.gov].

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by PiMuNu on Thursday August 10 2023, @02:52PM

        by PiMuNu (3823) on Thursday August 10 2023, @02:52PM (#1319788)

        Page 17.

        Interestingly, there is no battery on board, rather a capacitor bank (to deal with events having a high power draw). Battery lifetime was not long enough to last out the mission.

    • (Score: 2) by corey on Friday August 11 2023, @10:00AM

      by corey (2202) on Friday August 11 2023, @10:00AM (#1319946)

      It sounds like the main lobe was off kilter from earth and parabolic dish antennas have fairly narrow main lobe beam patterns.

      However earth probably still sat on the edge where the gain was sufficient enough to pick up the 100kW “shout” such that the signal was resolvable from the noise floor.

      Good stuff. Sounds like there’s still slack in the link budget to keep talking to it for a while yet.

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