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by ibgames

EARTHDATE: December 10, 2017

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by Hazed

The Voyager 1 probe’s mission has been extended for another two or three years, following a successful attempt to fire some of its thrusters for the first time since 1980.

In an announcement last week, NASA explained that Voyager 1 has been using its “attitude control thrusters” (ACMs) for decades in order to nudge the probe so that its antenna point towards Earth, enabling it to stay in contact. But since 2014 these ACMs have been using more fuel than they used to, running the risk that it will run out of juice.

As an alternative, NASA wondered if the probe could use its “trajectory correction manoeuvre” thrusts (TCM). These were last used when Voyager 1 passed Saturn back in 1980.

Software developers had to test that plan, as explained by Jet Propulsion Laboratory chief engineer Chris Jones: “The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters.”

Last week the team were ready for a real test, so they instructed Voyager 1 to fire the TCM thrusters. A day later, after the radio signal took 38 hours to reach the probe and then for the response to be received on Earth, they learned that these thrusters worked just as well as the ACMs.

“With these thrusters … we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager.

It is incredible that the probe, which was launched forty years ago in September 1977, is still going. It has now officially left the Solar System and is sailing into the unknown.

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/12/04/voyager_1_mission_extension_thanks_assmbler_code_and_

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