Why Voyager 1 is entitled to a software update 45 years later?

45 years after its launch, the Voyager 1 probe is still partially functional. But transmission problems noted last May prompted NASA to develop what will probably be its ultimate software update.


Voyager 1 is currently more than 23.5 billion kilometers from Earth – like its twin sister Voyager 2, the probe is one of the very first man-made objects to enter interstellar space, outside the Earth’s orbit. influence of the sun. Voyager 1 was launched by NASA on September 5, 1977, exactly 44 years and 11 months ago.

The probe is powered by a radioactive battery, which still delivers enough energy to operate some of its instruments. Even if in fact, a majority of modules had to be deactivated in recent years. Nevertheless, Voyager 1 and 2 are the first probes to be able to study interstellar space, and as such, the slightest data that they can still transmit retains a scientific interest.

Voyager 1 used a faulty on-board computer

Voyager 1 thus still has a system for analyzing cosmic rays, a system for analyzing charged particles of low energy, a magnetometer, and a subsystem capable of measuring the density of electrons. The Voyager 2 probe can still transmit data from another module dedicated to the study of plasma. For the rest, neither of the two probes can transmit images to Earth as in the past.

But last May, JPL scientists noticed a transmission problem – which could well have meant the end of the mission. The antenna alignment system was transmitting inadequate telemetry data, but engineers quickly figured out what was causing it. The system has indeed started to entrust the data to an onboard computer that JPL has known to be defective for years.

And that’s why they had to come up with a new update – forcing the probe to use the correct onboard computer. According to Nasa, it currently takes 21 hours 48 minutes, and 26 seconds to transmit or receive data from the probe at its range. The operation proved to be a success, and mission scientists now hope to continue receiving data until at least 2025.


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