Voyager fires thrusters!

voyager fires thrustersNow more than 21 billion km from Earth, for the first time in 37 years Voyager 1 has fired up its back-up attitude control thrusters to test the possibility of realigning its antenna and extending the time its signals can be picked up on Earth by up to three years.

Right now, a radio signal travelling from Earth at the speed of light takes 19 hours 35 minutes to arrive at Voyager 1 but engineers needed to realign the spacecraft’s pointing angle, so that it can remain locked on Earth as the high-gain antenna is fixed. At present, four instruments are switched on but six remain off as the spacecraft journeys on in interstellar space.

The four Aerojet Rocketdyne MR-103 thrusters were fired up on 28 November in 10-millisecond pulses, confirmation that they had operated perfectly arriving on Earth through the Goldstone Deep Space Network tracking station the following day. Now, the plan is to fire all four Trajectory Correction Manoeuvre thrusters in January to effect the orientation shift.


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