Voyager 2 is lost…for a time

by | Aug 2, 2023 | exploration, NASA, Reliability Info, Seradata News

An erroneous command sent to the venerable Voyager 2 spacecraft, now at the outer reaches of the solar system, inadvertently made the spacecraft move so that it tilted its antenna to point two degrees away from Earth. Communications were lost with the spacecraft – both in transmit or receive mode since 21 July. However, NASA was not unduly worried as an automatic reset was due later in the year on 15 October when the spacecraft will use its antenna to search for signals from Earth.

In the event, after the initial announcement of the error, the Deep Space Network of large dish receivers around the world picked up the carrier signal link from the spacecraft which indicated that the spacecraft was, at least, still alive. On the morning of 2 August, a high-power command signal was sent in the direction of Voyager 2 to get the spacecraft to realign its antenna back towards Earth. On 3 August it was confirmed that full contact had been restored with Voyager 2.

Voyager 2 was launched in 1977 to pursue a mission involving a multi-planet flyby of the outer solar system including Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. The spacecraft is now sending intermittent signals back detailing the space environment at the outer edge of the solar system. Scientists argue over the definition of the limit of the solar system, and some argue that it crossed the boundary called the “Heliosphere”, where the Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind has no more effect, in November 2018.

Artist’s impression of Voyager 2. Courtesy: NASA


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