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by Brice Louvet, science editor 3 November 2020, 12 h 31 min

The 29 October, NASA operators sent a series of new instructions to the Voyager probe 2 that sails in interstellar space. The ship sent back a signal confirming that it had received the "call" and carried out the commands without problem..

In November 2019, Voyager probe 2, launched in 1977, returned its first data from outside our Solar System. In other words, freed from the grip of the Sun, she now sails in interstellar space, just like her sister Voyager 1 launched the same year. That said, last March, NASA had to “abandon” the spacecraft for a few months, time for the agency to upgrade the DSS-43 radio antenna, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (Australia).

This maintenance work is of paramount importance to NASA. And for good reason, this seventy-meter-wide antenna is the only one capable of communicating with the probe. How is it possible ? You should know that at the start, the American agency could rely on three stations : one in Australia, one in California and one in Spain. By their geographical location, these installations made it possible to maintain permanent contact with the probe despite the rotation of the Earth.

However, for several years, and unlike Voyager 1, Voyager 2 dives in a downward direction from the Earth's orbital plane. In other words, the probe is now only accessible from the southern hemisphere.

Another important point : Voyager 2 can only receive S-band transmissions. Or, the Canberra communications complex is the only facility in the southern hemisphere currently capable of transmitting communications in this band at such a distance. For information, Voyager 2 is now nearly nineteen billion kilometers from Earth !

This is the reason why NASA cannot afford to abandon this antenna. This one is getting old (commissioning in 1972), the engineers therefore undertook some "floor to ceiling" upgrades to ensure that the antenna could continue to be used for current and future missions. “For an antenna that is almost fifty years old, it is better to be proactive than reactive ”, writes NASA.

Officially, the antenna must be "offline" until January 2021. However, the 29 October 2020, NASA wanted to test two new, freshly installed radio transmitters. One of them, which is used to “talk” with Voyager 2, had not been replaced for more than 47 years. Engineers also upgraded the heating and cooling equipment, power supply equipment and other electronic components required to operate the new transmitters.

According to NASA, the operations went very well. The engineers have indeed sent several commands to which the probe responded well.. At such a distance, this information took more than 17 hours to get to the ship, then more than 17 overtime to return to Earth. Note that since disconnecting the antenna, mission operators were not without news of the probe which, on his side, could still communicate to Earth.

Finally, note that these repairs will also benefit other missions, including that of the Perseverance rover which is due to land on Mars on 18 February 2021. The network will also play an essential role in the framework of the Artemis program which foresees the return of humans to the Moon as soon as 2024.

Popular science magazine, Sciencepost unveils the latest discoveries and advances in science and new technologies every day..

Source: https://sciencepost.fr/nasa-sonde-voyager-2/

Voyager 2, NASA, Voyager program, Outer space

World news – FR – NASA comes from “talk” to the Voyager probe 2 (and she replied)

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