On October 29, the mission operators sent a series of commands to NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since mid-March. The spacecraft flew alone while the 70-meter (230-foot wide) radio antenna used to speak to it was offline for repairs and upgrades. Voyager 2 returns a confirmation that it has received the “call” and executes the command without problems.
The call to Voyager 2 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 to Voyager 2, has not been replaced in over 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 food will be back 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 feed bars in the center of the spans,” said Brad Arnold. project director at the DSN 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 near Neptune’s moon Triton in 1989, a 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.
DSS43 is the only dish in the Southern Hemisphere that has a generator that is 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, took another route via Saturn and is able to communicate via antennas at two DSN facilities in the northern hemisphere. The antennas must link the commands to both Travelers in a radio frequency band known as the S band and the downlink data of the antenna from the spacecraft within the so called 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 receive the signal 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 (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 the engineers overseeing the current work say this is one of the most important changes the dish has received and also the longest offline time in over 30 years.
“The DSS43 antenna is a highly specialized system; there are only two other analog antennas in the world, so lowering the antenna for a year is not an ideal situation for the Voyager or for multiple missions. another of NASA, “said Philip Baldwin, director of operations. for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation Program (SCaN). “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’s better to be proactive than react to critical maintenance. “
Repairs will benefit other missions, including the explorer Mars Perseverance, which will land on the Red Planet on 18 February 2021. The network will also play an important role in Moon discovery efforts to Mars, ensuring communications and navigation assistance for both the forerunner moon and Mars missions and the Artemis missions were crewed.
Voyager 2 was unable to receive orders during an upgrade of NASA’s 70 meter wide radio antenna
Quote: NASA contacts Voyager 2 with an upgraded Deep Space Network disk (2020, November 4) retrieved November 4, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-nasa-contacts -voyager-deep-space.html
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