Feeds

NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

Probe enters energy-saving phase at edge of space

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA has switched off a heater on a part of the Voyager 1 probe, plunging the temperature of its one functioning instrument to below minus 110° Fahrenheit (minus 79°C) – well below the minimum temps of minus 31° Fahrenheit (minus 35° C) at which it was designed to operate.

Space boffins took the decision in order to conserve the probe's energy supply as it continues to venture beyond the edge of the solar system.

Voyager 1's ultraviolet spectrometer (UVS), a light meter which is its only working instrument, spots the presence of certain atoms or ions. This allowed it to investigate auroral activity on the planets and satellites it has passed since launch in 1979 and has even allowed it to observe supernovae. The spacecraft is now journeying beyond the 'bubble' created by the Sun's gravity and is enduring the coldest temperatures it has experienced to date.

“Scientists and mission managers will continue to monitor the spectrometer's performance,” the agency said in a canned statement. “It was very active during Voyager 1's encounters with Jupiter and Saturn, and since then an international team led by scientists in France has been analysing the spectrometer's data.”

Voyager 1 and its cargo of scientific equipment were designed to operate at temperatures as low as minus 31° Fahrenheit (minus 35° C). But NASA has had to turn down the thermostat again and again over the past 17 years in order to push Voyager 1 to keep working up to 2025 – far beyond its scheduled retirement date of 1989. It is now operating well below expected temperatures.

Since then, Voyager 1 and its companion probe Voyager 2 have been journeying further from Earth. Voyager 1 is now 11 billion miles (17.7 billion km) away from the Sun, almost 120 times as far from the Sun as Earth, with Voyager 2 trailing some two billion miles (3.2 billion km) behind. Both send data back to Earth at 160 bits/sec and 1.4 kbps for high-rate plasma wave data, via a 3.7-metre antenna.

Voyager 1's power is supplied by radioisotope thermoelectric generators that pumped out approximately 470 Watts and a 30-Volt DC supply at launch in 1977. By 2008, radioactive decay of the plutonium fuel source had caused the output to drop to 285 Watts.

In fact, this power performance is better than expected by pre-launch predictions, but NASA will continue to conserve power by turning off functions over the coming years.

NASA said it expects Voyagers 1 and 2 to be unable to power any single instrument by 2025. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.