NASA’s Voyager 1 probe transmitted unrecognizable telemetry data through an onboard failed computer in May. The engineers recently fixed this issue by commanding it to send data through an operational computer. (Image Credit: NASA)
It’s heartwarming that Voyager 1 is still out there, still getting fixes and patches.
NASA engineers recently applied a fix to the Voyager 1 probe that experienced data issues. In May, the spacecraft’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS), which ensures the antenna points toward Earth, transmitted unrecognizable data relating to its health and performance despite normal operations. The rest of the probe remained healthy while it collected and sent science data. It also didn’t trigger a fault protection system while keeping the antenna pointed to Earth.
But what exactly happened? According to the engineers, the AACS transmitted randomly generated telemetry via a failed onboard computer, causing data corruption. After discovering this was the source of the issue, the team instructed the AACS to send data to the operational computer instead. If the AACS completely fails, humanity likely won’t communicate with the probe again.
However, the engineers don’t understand why the AACS routed telemetry data to the failed computer. They speculate it was possibly caused by an incorrect command created by another computer. That would also mean there’s an issue elsewhere on the probe. The team plans to look further into that problem, but they say it shouldn’t affect the probe’s long-term health.
"We're happy to have the telemetry back," said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager's project manager. "We'll do a full memory readout of the AACS and look at everything it's been doing. That will help us try to diagnose the problem that caused the telemetry issue in the first place. So we're cautiously optimistic, but we still have more investigating to do."
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