NASA Engineers Solve Data Failure on Voyager 1 Solar Probe

NASA engineers have fixed a problem affecting data from the Voyager 1 spacecraft. A critical system aboard the probe was sending back confusing data about its status. Technicians have fixed the issue, but are still looking for the root cause.

Earlier this year, the probe’s articulation and attitude control system (AACS), which keeps Voyager 1’s antenna pointed at Earth, started sending confusing information about its status and activities to mission controllers, despite operating normally. The rest of the probe also appeared to be in good shape as it continued to collect and return science data.

The team has since tracked down the source of the distorted information: AACS had begun sending the telemetry data through an onboard computer known to have stopped working years ago, and the computer corrupted the information.

Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager, said that when they suspected this was the problem, they opted to try a low-risk solution: order AACS to resume sending data to the correct computer. Engineers still don’t know why AACS started routing telemetry data to the wrong computer, but it probably received a faulty command generated by another onboard computer. If that is the case, it would indicate that there is a problem somewhere else in the spacecraft. The team will continue to look for that underlying problem, but they don’t think it’s a threat to Voyager 1’s long-term health.

“We’re happy to get the telemetry back,” Dodd said. “We’ll do a full memory read on the AACS and see everything it’s been up to. That will help us try to diagnose the problem that caused the telemetry problem in the first place. So we are cautiously optimistic, but still We have more research to do.”

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have been exploring our solar system for 45 years. Both probes are now in interstellar space, the region outside the heliopause, or bubble of energetic particles and magnetic fields from the Sun.

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