Voyager 2 is one of the probes that is exploring into deep space where no other spacecraft from earth has ever reached before. It is now traveling for 43 years since its launch on August 20, 1977.
The only dish DSS43 that can command the voyager 2 was put into maintenance from March 2020 and to install new hardware as said by the operatives. The work is said to be completed by February 2021. On October 29, 2020, the operators send a command to Voyager 2 and it sent a signal confirming that the command has been received and executed successfully. Making contact with the Voyager 2 was testing for the new hardware that is installed in the Deep Space Station 43. It is situated in Canberra, Australia, and is a part of NASA’s DSN ( Deep Space Network ).
During the upgrade and maintenance of DSS43 Voyager 2 was able to send its well-being updates and data from intersteller space but it was not able to receive any command from the earth. As the contact was successful with Voyager 2 it can be said that DSS43 will be back in February 2021 as expected.
The Deep Space Network Manager at NASA said “What makes this task unique is that we’re doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the center of the dish that extends above the rim. This test communication with Voyager 2 tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing.”
According to NASA, this is the longest time that DSS43 was offline, and the old dish that needs to be replaced had been doing its job for the past 47 years. The updates for the DSS43 are –
- Two new antennas
- Heating and cooling equipment
- Power supply equipment
- Various other electronics to support the new transmitters
When DSS43 started its operation it was about 64 meters (210 feet) wide in 1972 and later it increased to 70 meters (230 feet) in 1987 due to its various maintenance and upgrades. The operatives working on the current upgrade and maintenance says that this is a compelling upgrade DSS43 has received over so many years. It will be beneficial to various other missions.
The operation manager for NASA’s Space Communication And Navigation (SCaN) Program said “The DSS43 antenna is a highly specialized system; there are only two other similar antennas in the world, so having the antenna down for one year is not an ideal situation for Voyager or many other NASA missions. The agency decided to conduct these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions. For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it’s better to be proactive than reactive with critical maintenance.”
Even though DSS43 was updating for such a long time for the scientists always kept update on Voyager 2. Suzanne Dodd said to CNN “We’ve always been talking to the spacecraft. We’ve been doing that daily. We can see the health of it. If it wasn’t healthy, we would have known.”
The Voyager shows an amazing track record by sending valuable data since the day of its launch. It is expected that it will help us to discover more about outer space in the upcoming years.
Source – nasa