Voyager 2’s Purpose
It was built in motion to accompany its twin in transforming our understanding of our stellar neighbourhood, by revealing unprecedented information about the interstellar space, beyond the Sun’s sphere of influence. Multiple fault protection routines were programmed in both, in order to allow them to automatically take actions to protect themselves if potentially harmful circumstances arose.
What Had Happened?
Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 both were the most distant human-made objects to be launched in the solar system. On Jan. 25 2020, Voyager 2 ran into trouble when it didn’t execute a scheduled manoeuvre in which the spacecraft rotates 360 degrees in order to calibrate its onboard magnetic field instrument. Analysis of the telemetry from the spacecraft indicated that an unexplained delay in the onboard execution had occurred. This caused the Voyager 2 to overdraw its available power supply.
The Voyager’s power supply comes from a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG), which turns heat from the decay of radioactive material into electricity to power the spacecraft. Thus the science team has to manage both the power supply and the temperature of certain systems on the spacecraft. Communications traveling at the speed of light take about 17 hours to reach the spacecraft, and it takes another 17 hours for a response from the spacecraft to return to Earth. As a result, mission engineers have to wait about 34 hours to find out if their commands have had the desired effect on the spacecraft.