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Voyager 1 has exited the Solar System?

Grey Havoc

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http://www.space.com/20313-voyager-1-leaves-solar-system.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/9944080/Voyager-1-becomes-first-man-made-object-to-leave-the-Solar-System.html


Voyager I passing the rings of Saturn (Daily Telegraph)
 

Hobbes

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It's a fantastic achievement that Voyager 1 still operates, that we can still communicate with it, and that it still adds to our knowledge of the solar system.
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/03/voyager-1-leaving-solar-system/
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/10306066/Voyager-leaves-solar-system-36-years-after-launch.html
 

Hobbes

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Yup, it's official this time:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-277

And the method they used to do the final measurement was pretty cool too:
Voyager 1 does not have a working plasma sensor, so scientists needed a different way to measure the spacecraft's plasma environment to make a definitive determination of its location. A coronal mass ejection, or a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields, that erupted from the sun in March 2012 provided scientists the data they needed. When this unexpected gift from the sun eventually arrived at Voyager 1's location 13 months later, in April 2013, the plasma around the spacecraft began to vibrate like a violin string. On April 9, Voyager 1's plasma wave instrument detected the movement. The pitch of the oscillations helped scientists determine the density of the plasma. The particular oscillations meant the spacecraft was bathed in plasma more than 40 times denser than what they had encountered in the outer layer of the heliosphere. Density of this sort is to be expected in interstellar space.
 

FighterJock

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So sad that Voyager 1 has left the solar system :'( But it still has enough power on board to last until perhaps mid-next decade (2025-30) so expect more news from Voyager 1 between now and then.
 

Jemiba

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FighterJock said:
So sad that Voyager 1 has left the solar system :'( ...
Sad ??
"Space... the Final Frontier. ... , to boldly go where no man has gone before."
I never thought it to be a sad quote (althought I'm not really a Trekkie..) ;)
 

Steve Pace

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If you've seen Star Trek - one of the movies, you'll see that the Klingon's - who else - used Voyager 1 as target practice and blew it up! -SP
 

carsinamerica

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Steve Pace said:
If you've seen Star Trek - one of the movies, you'll see that the Klingon's - who else - used Voyager 1 as target practice and blew it up! -SP
Pioneer 10, actually. Sorry, I'm a nerd.
 

F-14D

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carsinamerica said:
Steve Pace said:
If you've seen Star Trek - one of the movies, you'll see that the Klingon's - who else - used Voyager 1 as target practice and blew it up! -SP
Pioneer 10, actually. Sorry, I'm a nerd.
I'm waiting for the other five Voyagers so we can get to V'Ger
 

Creative

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The sound of Interstellar Space recorded by Voyager I

http://youtu.be/LIAZWb9_si4
 

Grey Havoc

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOqoljJ0ees
 

Flyaway

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Yet again showing what remarkable spacecraft they are.

https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7014

If you tried to start a car that's been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

Voyager 1, NASA's farthest and fastest spacecraft, is the only human-made object in interstellar space, the environment between the stars. The spacecraft, which has been flying for 40 years, relies on small devices called thrusters to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth. These thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or "puffs," lasting mere milliseconds, to subtly rotate the spacecraft so that its antenna points at our planet. Now, the Voyager team is able to use a set of four backup thrusters, dormant since 1980.

"With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years," said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called "attitude control thrusters," have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy. At 13 billion miles from Earth, there's no mechanic shop nearby to get a tune-up.

The Voyager team assembled a group of propulsion experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, to study the problem. Chris Jones, Robert Shotwell, Carl Guernsey and Todd Barber analyzed options and predicted how the spacecraft would respond in different scenarios. They agreed on an unusual solution: Try giving the job of orientation to a set of thrusters that had been asleep for 37 years.

"The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters," said Jones, chief engineer at JPL.

In the early days of the mission, Voyager 1 flew by Jupiter, Saturn, and important moons of each. To accurately fly by and point the spacecraft's instruments at a smorgasbord of targets, engineers used "trajectory correction maneuver," or TCM, thrusters that are identical in size and functionality to the attitude control thrusters, and are located on the back side of the spacecraft. But because Voyager 1's last planetary encounter was Saturn, the Voyager team hadn't needed to use the TCM thrusters since November 8, 1980. Back then, the TCM thrusters were used in a more continuous firing mode; they had never been used in the brief bursts necessary to orient the spacecraft.

All of Voyager's thrusters were developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The same kind of thruster, called the MR-103, flew on other NASA spacecraft as well, such as Cassini and Dawn.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly -- and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

"The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all," said Barber, a JPL propulsion engineer.

The plan going forward is to switch to the TCM thrusters in January. To make the change, Voyager has to turn on one heater per thruster, which requires power -- a limited resource for the aging mission. When there is no longer enough power to operate the heaters, the team will switch back to the attitude control thrusters.

The thruster test went so well, the team will likely do a similar test on the TCM thrusters for Voyager 2, the twin spacecraft of Voyager 1. The attitude control thrusters currently used for Voyager 2 are not yet as degraded as Voyager 1's, however.

Voyager 2 is also on course to enter interstellar space, likely within the next few years.

The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/voyager
 

draganm

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one of the greatest technological achievements of mankind, right up there with the Moon mission IMO.

I knew about them but didn't realize the full scope of the mission and how many challenges they faced until watching this documentary the The Farthest , well worth the watch and they even have Pink Floyd on the soundtrack B)

http://www.pbs.org/the-farthest/home/
 

Flyaway

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NEWS | JULY 8, 2019
A New Plan for Keeping NASA's Oldest Explorers Going

With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years - longer than any other spacecraft in history. To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters.

One key issue is that both Voyagers, launched in 1977, have less and less power available over time to run their science instruments and the heaters that keep them warm in the coldness of deep space. Engineers have had to decide what parts get power and what parts have to be turned off on both spacecraft. But those decisions must be made sooner for Voyager 2 than Voyager 1 because Voyager 2 has one more science instrument collecting data - and drawing power - than its sibling.

After extensive discussions with the science team, mission managers recently turned off a heater for the cosmic ray subsystem instrument (CRS) on Voyager 2 as part of the new power management plan. The cosmic ray instrument played a crucial role last November in determining that Voyager 2 had exited the heliosphere, the protective bubble created by a constant outflow (or wind) of ionized particles from the Sun. Ever since, the two Voyagers have been sending back details of how our heliosphere interacts with the wind flowing in interstellar space, the space between stars.

Not only are Voyager mission findings providing humanity with observations of truly uncharted territory, but they help us understand the very nature of energy and radiation in space - key information for protecting NASA's missions and astronauts even when closer to home.

Mission team members can now preliminarily confirm that Voyager 2's cosmic ray instrument is still returning data, despite dropping to a chilly minus 74 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 59 degrees Celsius). This is lower than the temperatures at which CRS was tested more than 42 years ago (down to minus 49 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 45 degrees Celsius). Another Voyager instrument also continued to function for years after it dropped below temperatures at which it was tested.

"It's incredible that Voyagers' instruments have proved so hardy," said Voyager Project Manager Suzanne Dodd, who is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We're proud they've withstood the test of time. The long lifetimes of the spacecraft mean we're dealing with scenarios we never thought we'd encounter. We will continue to explore every option we have in order to keep the Voyagers doing the best science possible."

Voyager 2 continues to return data from five instruments as it travels through interstellar space. In addition to the cosmic ray instrument, which detects fast-moving particles that can originate from the Sun or from sources outside our solar system, the spacecraft is operating two instruments dedicated to studying plasma (a gas in which atoms have been ionized and electrons float freely) and a magnetometer (which measures magnetic fields) for understanding the sparse clouds of material in interstellar space.

Taking data from a range of directions, the low-energy charged particle instrument is particularly useful for studying the probe's transition away from our heliosphere. Because CRS can look only in certain fixed directions, the Voyager science team decided to turn off CRS's heater first.

Voyager 1, which crossed into interstellar space in August 2012, continues to collect data from its cosmic ray instrument as well, plus from one plasma instrument, the magnetometer and the low-energy charged particle instrument.

Why Turn Off Heaters?

Launched separately in 1977, the two Voyagers are now over 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) from the Sun and far from its warmth. Engineers have to carefully control temperature on both spacecraft to keep them operating. For instance, if fuel lines powering the thrusters that keep the spacecraft oriented were to freeze, the Voyagers' antennae could stop pointing at Earth. That would prevent engineers from sending commands to the spacecraft or receiving scientific data. So the spacecraft were designed to heat themselves.

But running heaters - and instruments - requires power, which is constantly diminishing on both Voyagers.

Each of the probes is powered by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs, which produce heat via the natural decay of plutonium-238 radioisotopes and convert that heat into electrical power. Because the heat energy of the plutonium in the RTGs declines and their internal efficiency decreases over time, each spacecraft is producing about 4 fewer watts of electrical power each year. That means the generators produce about 40% less than what they did at launch nearly 42 years ago, limiting the number of systems that can run on the spacecraft.

The mission's new power management plan explores multiple options for dealing with the diminishing power supply on both spacecraft, including shutting off additional instrument heaters over the next few years.

Revving Up Old Jet Packs

Another challenge that engineers have faced is managing the degradation of some of the spacecraft thrusters, which fire in tiny pulses, or puffs, to subtly rotate the spacecraft. This became an issue in 2017, when mission controllers noticed that a set of thrusters on Voyager 1 needed to give off more puffs to keep the spacecraft's antenna pointed at Earth. To make sure the spacecraft could continue to maintain proper orientation, the team fired up another set of thrusters on Voyager 1 that hadn't been used in 37 years.

Voyager 2's current thrusters have started to degrade, too. Mission managers have decided to make the same thruster switch on that probe this month. Voyager 2 last used these thrusters (known as trajectory correction maneuver thrusters) during its encounter with Neptune in 1989.

Many Miles to Go Before They Sleep

The engineers' plan to manage power and aging parts should ensure that Voyager 1 and 2 can continue to collect data from interstellar space for several years to come. Data from the Voyagers continue to provide scientists with never-before-seen observations of our boundary with interstellar space, complementing NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), a mission that is remotely sensing that boundary. NASA is also preparing the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP), due to launch in 2024,to capitalize on the Voyagers' observations.

"Both Voyager probes are exploring regions never before visited, so every day is a day of discovery," said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, who is based at Caltech. "Voyager is going to keep surprising us with new insights about deep space."

The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:


 

Flyaway

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Update to the news article posted above:

UPDATED on July 12, 2019: Voyager 2 successfully fired up its trajectory correction maneuver thrusters on July 8, 2019, and will be using them to control the pointing of the spacecraft for the foreseeable future. Voyager 2 last used those thrusters during its encounter with Neptune in 1989. The spacecraft's aging attitude control thrusters have been experiencing degradation that required them to fire an increasing and untenable number of pulses to keep the spacecraft's antenna pointed at Earth. Voyager 1 switched to its trajectory correction maneuver thrusters for the same reason in January 2018.
 
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