Voyager 1 has been traversing the solar system for 45 years. Today, after its long journey through space since its launch in 1977, it is roughly 23.5 billion kilometers from Earth in the “interstellar medium,” far from the influence of the Sun, and continues to drift away from the Solar System at about 60,000 kilometers per hour.
Despite its age, everything seems to indicate that Voyager 1 is still working properly. However, NASA engineers working on this spacecraft have recently been baffled by the probe’s hinge and control system, which produces data that appears completely random.
AACS Attitude Expression and Control System
Specifically, the scientists found that the spacecraft receives and successfully executes commands from Earth, but readings from the probe’s Attitude and Expression Control System (AACS), which keeps the spacecraft and its antenna in the correct orientation. It takes place aboard Voyager 1.
Apparently, AACS is sending unwanted telemetry data to spacecraft processors.
“A puzzle like this is common at this point in the Voyager mission,” Susan Dodd said in a statement: Project manager for Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
“The two spacecraft are approximately 45 years old, well beyond what the mission planners expected,” Dodd added. “We’re also in interstellar space, a highly radioactive environment where no spacecraft has flown before.”
The NASA statement does not specify when the problem began or how long it has lasted.
Talk to Voyager 1, a long process
The Voyager team is still examining the alien data, although it is a slow process, currently taking 20 hours and 33 minutes for a signal from Earth to reach Voyager 1; Receiving the response from the spacecraft carries the same delay.
At the moment, engineers aren’t sure if the problem is coming directly from this system or from another part of the ship.
According to NASA, the dual probe Voyager 2, also launched in 1977, is behaving normally.
According to various scientific media, there is a possibility that NASA will not find the source of the problem and will have to make changes to the software or use one of the spacecraft’s backup systems, something that was already done in 2017.
However, NASA is more optimistic. “There are some big challenges for the engineering team,” Dodd said. “But I think if there is a way to solve this problem with AACS, our team will find it,” he added.
Edited by Felipe Espinosa Wang.
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