Never the radio as silent as this time After long months of being unable to contact Voyager 2, NASA finally re-established record interstellar spacecraft communication.
The communication breakdown – which has lasted since March, almost eight months, and a pandemic before – was not due to some unsightly malfunction, nor was it the interstellar space weirdness ( even though it is).
In this case, it is a case of routine maintenance. And yet, when you’re one of the farthest spaceships in history – leaving Earth and even the entire solar system behind you ̵1; nothing really is that frequent.
In March, NASA announced that the 43rd Deep Space Station (DSS-43) in Australia, the only antenna on Earth that could send orders to Voyager 2, required a major upgrade and would need to close within range 11 months to finish the job. .
In this window, Voyager 2, which is currently more than 18.7 billion kilometers (11.6 billion miles) from Earth and getting further away all the time, will not be able to receive any communication. from Earth, despite our own broadcasts so that we will still be accepted by scientists.
As of now, the DSS-43 refurbishment is underway and is on track to be completed by February 2021, but enough upgrades have been installed to begin preliminary testing.
Last week, the mission operators sent their first communications to Voyager 2 since March, issuing a series of commands, and NASA reported that Voyager 2 had returned a confirmation signal that it was Get instructions and execute commands without problems.
In the past eight months, the 43rd Deep Space Station has been upgraded. @ NASAVoyager-2 waited for us to be able to resend it. On Friday 30 October, we sent those orders and after 34 hours 48 minutes round trip, a “hello” is back! # DSS43 @CSIRO pic.twitter.com/qyMEc9Jkxc November 2, 2020
Successful pings between radio antennas and spaceships are usually not a believable event, but the Voyager 2 is a historic and long-standing probe (in fact the longest active space mission It really gets special attention – especially in situations like these, which involve a period of so long in silence, unprecedented efficiency.
According to NASA, the DSS-43 has been inactive for more than 30 years. The old radio antenna in need of replacement – the only antenna in the world capable of broadcasting to Voyager 2 – has been in use for over 47 years.
As part of the refurbishment, the DSS-43 will receive two new antennas, an upgraded heating and cooling device, a power supply unit and other electronic devices to support the new generators. . When work is complete, the upgrade will give life to the foundation of an already legendary facility.
“What makes this mission unique is that we are working at all levels of the antenna, from the base of the ground to the main points in the center of the extension disc,” said NASA Deep Space. on the rim “Network project director Brad Arnold.
“This experimental communication with Voyager 2 certainly tells us that things are on track with the work we are doing.”
As for why the DSS-43 is the only dish in the world with access to Voyager 2, the reason isn’t entirely tech. As a result of Neptune’s 1989 probe to the moon Triton, Voyager 2’s orbit has been significantly south above the plane of the planets in the Solar System, i.e. The terrestrial antennae in the northern hemisphere have no way to reach them.
As for the Down Under antenna, though, that’s fine – unless you’re doing it offline for almost a year of critical upgrade. Even then, though, scientists are constantly thinking about Voyager 2 and keeping a close eye on its key points.
“We talk to the spacecraft all the time. We did it every day,” Suzanne Dodd, project director of Interstellar Flight, told CNN.
“We can see its health. If it’s unhealthy, we know.”
This article was originally published by ScienceAlert. Read the original article here.