A problem with the on-board computer of Voyager 1, the farthest probe from Earth


The farthest probe from Earth, Voyager 1, is one of the few “spaceships” to have crossed the outer planets of the solar system and beyond. At the moment it is experiencing a serious problem with the “Flight Data System” (FDS), one of the three on-board computers.

This system is vital for receiving and executing ground commands, but is currently experiencing communication difficulties with one of its units, the “Telecommunications Unit” (TMU).

This dysfunction prevents the transmission of scientific and technical data to Earth. The FDS collects data from the science instruments and probe status and combines them into a data packet transmitted via the TMU using binary code.

Recently, the TMU started broadcasting a repeating binary code pattern, indicating a malfunction. After ruling out other causes, technicians identified the FDS as the source of the problem. Despite trying to restart the probe does not transmit any useful data. The team expects several weeks to develop the solution.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, hold the record for the longest-lived space probes. Solving these challenges often requires looking at historical documents, which takes time to understand the impact of current commands on spacecraft operations.

Commands sent from Earth’s control center take 22.5 hours to reach Voyager 1, which is more than 15 billion miles from Earth. This means waiting 45 hours (calculating the round trip time of the signals) to evaluate the effect of the command received on the probe.


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