The only radio antenna that can command the 43-year-old spacecraft has been offline since March when it received new hardware, but work is on track to end in February.
On October 29, 2020, the mission operators sent in a series of orders NASAThe Voyager 2 spacecraft’s spacecraft for the first time since mid-March. The spacecraft flew alone while the 70-meter (230-foot wide) radio antenna used to talk to it went offline for repairs and upgrades. Voyager 2 returns a signal confirming that it has received the “call” and executed the commands without problems.
The Voyager 2 call is a test of new hardware installed recently on Deep Space Station 43, the only disk in the world that can send commands to Voyager 2. Located in Canberra, Australia, it’s part of of the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN), a collection of radio antennas around the world used primarily to communicate with extraterrestrial spacecraft. Since the dish went offline, the mission operators were able to receive health updates and scientific data from Voyager 2, but they were unable to send orders to remote exploration. sticky rice, which has traveled billions of miles from Earth since its 1977 launch.
Among the upgrades to DSS43, as dish is known, are two new radio transmitters. One of them, used to speak with Voyager 2, has not been replaced in more than 47 years. Engineers have also upgraded the heating and cooling equipment, power supplies and other electronic equipment needed to run the new generators.
The successful call to Voyager 2 is just one indication that the dish will return online in February 2021.
“What makes this mission unique is that we are working at all levels of the antenna, from the ground base to the center load rods that span the horn,” said Brad Arnold. DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “This experimental communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we are doing.”
The Deep Space Network consists of equally spaced wireless antenna facilities across the globe in Canberra; Goldstone, California; and Madrid, Spain. The locations of the three facilities ensure that almost any spacecraft with a line of sight to Earth can communicate with at least one of the facilities at any time.
Voyager 2 is a rare exception. To make a flight close Neptuneof Moon Triton in 1989, the probe flew over the planet’s north pole. That orbit has deflected it southward from the planets’ plane, and it has been in that direction ever since. Now more than 11.6 billion miles (18.8 billion km) from Earth, the spacecraft is so far south that it does not have a line of sight with radio antennas in the Northern Hemisphere.
Click on this interactive visualization of NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft and take it for a spin Launched in 1977, the spacecraft is now more than 11.6 billion miles (18.8 billion km) from Earth. Trace its impressive history through Eyes on the Solar System. Vendor: NASA /JPL-Caltech
DSS43 is the only dish in the Southern Hemisphere that has a transmitter powerful enough and sends out the correct frequency to send commands to a spacecraft in the distance. Voyager 2’s faster moving twin, Voyager 1, went a different route in the past Saturn and can be communicated via antennas at the two DSN sites in the Northern Hemisphere. The antennas must link the commands to both Travelers in a radio frequency band known as S-band and spacecraft data downlink antennas in a frequency band known as X band. .
While mission operators have been unable to command the Voyager 2 since the DSS43 went offline, the three 34-meter (111-foot wide) radio antennas at the Canberra facility can be used together to receives signals that Voyager 2 sends to Earth. The probe is sending back scientific data from interstellar space or the region outside of the Sun’s heliosphere – protective bubbles of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun that surround the planets and the Ring Kuiper belt (a collection of small, icy objects outside of Neptune’s orbit).
DSS43 entered service in 1972 (five years before the launch of the Voyager 2 and Voyager 1) and was only 64 meters (210 feet) wide at the time. It was expanded to 70 meters (230 feet) in 1987 and has received numerous upgrades and repairs since then. But engineers overseeing the current job say this is one of the most important changes the dish has received, and at most it has been offline for more than 30 years.
“The DSS43 antenna is a highly specialized system; There are only two other similar antennas in the world, so putting the antenna down for a year is not an ideal situation for Voyager or many other NASA missions, ”said Philip Baldwin, Chapter executive director Space Navigation and Communication (SCaN) program of NASA said. “The agency has made the decision to carry out these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions. For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it is better to be proactive than reacting to critical maintenance.
The repairs would be beneficial for other duties, incl Mars The durable detector, which will land on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021. This network will also play a key role in efforts to explore the Moon to Mars, ensuring communication and support. Navigate for both the forerunner Moon and Mars missions as well as the crew-driven Artemis missions.
The Deep Space Network is managed by JPL for the SCaN Program, located at NASA Headquarters within the Human Discovery and Operations Mission Board of Directors. Canberra Station is administered on behalf of NASA by Australia’s National Science Agency, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Voyager spacecraft built by JPL, continuing to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. The Voyager missions are part of the NASA Helicopter Systems Observatory, funded by the Department of Helicopter Physics of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.