The 45-year-old Voyager 1 space probe just got a software update


NASA launched the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes in 1977 to explore the outer solar system, and 45 years later both are still (partially) functional. Voyager 1, which is over 22 billion miles from Earth, has just received a software update.

NASA, the United States government’s civilian space agency, first reported a hardware issue with Voyager 1 in May. The probe’s Articulation and Control System (AACS), which is responsible for aligning Voyager’s antenna to aim for Earth, was not returning accurate telemetry data. NASA engineers found the cause later – the AACS was sending data through an on-board computer “known to have stopped working years ago”.

The problem was solved by sending a command to Voyager’s AACS, asking it to use the correct computer for data processing. It might seem like a simple fix, but Voyager 1 is over 14 billion miles from Earth (~22 billion km), operating with reduced power and a weak radio connection. Voyager 1 and 2 were also designed in the 1970s, so their computers aren’t exactly the most modern equipment.

Voyager 1, which launched on September 5, 1977, was built to fly by Jupiter, Saturn and Triton, Saturn’s largest moon. It has continued on its way outward since then and is currently in the “interstellar medium”, a high-radiation region of space beyond our own solar system. Voyager 1 has had other technical issues recently – NASA had to switch Voyager 1 to backup boosters in 2017, which are still working, even though they hadn’t been used for 37 years at that time.

Voyager 1 and 2 should continue to operate at least one scientific instrument until around 2025, when the power of their thermoelectric generator will drop too low.

Source: NASA
Via: The Registry

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