NASA uses 'Plan B' to reorient Voyager 1 in interstellar space

After 37 years, Voyager 1 has fired up its trajectory thrusters

NASA fires up Voyager 1 thrusters for the first time in 37 years

The last time the TCM thrusters were used was on November 8, 1980, during Voyager 1's encounter with Saturn, after which, they were not needed because there were no more planetary encounters.The experts searched up old date from years ago and studied the software coded in an assembler language, which was outdated, to ensure that the thrusters could be worked safely.

The spacecraft has been using small devices called "attitude control thrusters" to orient itself so it can communicate with Earth, but the thrusters have been degrading since 2014, according to NASA, Xinhua reported. It is some 21 billion kilometres away from Earth and is still travelling through deep space while sending telemetry data back to the space agency.

Voyager 1 is about 13 billion miles from Earth right now.

NASA launched the Voyager 1 space probe in 1977, and it remains the craft that's traveled furthest from Earth in human history.

Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California said that with these thrusters that are still working after 37 years without use, we would be capable of extending the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years.

Voyager 1 was initially launched to investigate Jupiter, Saturn, and its neighboring moon Titan via flybys.

Barber, a JPL propulsion engineer, said that the Voyager team got more thrilled each time with each milestone in the thruster experiment.

Nasa has fired the backup thrusters of Voyager 1, it's fastest and farthest space probe travelling through interstellar space, and effectively "extended its life".


"The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters", said Jones, chief engineer at JPL. The thrusters fire in tiny pulses, or "puffs", lasting mere milliseconds to turn the spacecraft.

After activating the trajectory correction maneuver thrusters on Voyager 1, NASA revealed they intend to do the same for the probe's twin, Voyager 2.

The Voyager team made a decision to try using the TCM thrusters, which were created to accurately point the spacecraft as it passed Jupiter and Saturn and their moons.

The Voyager team now wants to change over to the TCM thrusters in January, during a process where the spacecraft has to switch on a heater for each thruster, which needs power - a scarce resource for this aging mission.

To reawaken these dormant thrusters the team had to go back to the original Voyager documentation.

Voyager 1 was launched on September 5, 1977.

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

Latest News