NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been exploring our solar system for more than four decades now, was found to be sending distorted data to the mission controllers on Earth. Now, engineers have managed to determine the cause of the problem and have successfully fixed it. The team encountered the issue last year when the attitude articulation and control system (AACS) of the Voyager 1 began to return invalid telemetry data despite functioning normally. The AACS, besides other functions, keeps the high-gain antenna of the spacecraft pointed towards Earth enabling it to send data to the team.
As the issue came to light, NASA engineers went ahead and tried to diagnose it. And, after a thorough investigation, the team found that the AACS was sending the telemetry data through a computer onboard the spacecraft. This computer had stopped working years ago and was corrupting the data delivered by AACS.
According to Voyager’s project manager Suzanne Dodd, when the cause of the problem was identified, the team chose a low-risk solution to fix it. They commanded the AACS to start sending data through the right computer.
While the issue may have resolved, the engineers are still clueless about why the AACS had begun to deliver telemetry data through the wrong computer. However, they suspect that the AACS received a faulty command from another computer aboard the spacecraft. In this case, it would suggest that the root cause lies somewhere else on Voyager 1. The team now hopes to continue their search for the underlying issue but believes that it doesn’t pose a threat to the long-term health of the spacecraft.
“We’re happy to have the telemetry back,” said Dodd. He added that the team will carry out a full memory readout of the AACS and analyse its working. This, according to him, will help determine the issue that led to the distorted telemetry data. “So we’re cautiously optimistic, but we still have more investigating to do,” Dodd said.