Voyager 1 spacecraft thrusters fired up for first time since 1980

Artist's impression of Oumuamua the first confirmed interstellar asteroid

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experts searched up old date from years ago and studied the software coded in an assembler language, which was outdated, to ensure that the thrusters could be worked safely. At 13 billion miles from Earth, there's no technician workshop nearby to get a tune-up.

The thrusts lasted a mere 10-milliseconds, but due to the colossal distance between the probe and its home planet the commands took 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach Voyager.

NASA's Voyager 1 has been drifting farther and farther away from our planet for the past 40 years.

And there's a lot we don't know about interstellar space - like, how does material from other stars interact with our solar system? According to Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd, the reactivated thrusters should help extend the life of the probe for another "two to three years". Over the next few years it completed fly-bys of Jupiter, Saturn, and Titan-Saturn's largest moon.

"The Voyager flight team dug up decades-old data and examined the software that was coded in an outdated assembler language, to make sure we could safely test the thrusters", said Chris Jones, chief engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977, depends on thrusters, which are small devices that orient the spacecraft to communicate with Earth.

On Friday, NASA said it had successfully dusted off the spacecraft's long-dormant backup thrusters for the first time in 37 years.

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All of Voyager's thrusters were developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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 mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all", said Todd Barber, a JPL propulsion engineer.

However, Voyager 1 does have a set of four backup trajectory correction maneuver thrusters that haven't been used since the 1980s.

The spacecraft had been relying on its primary thrusters to keep it oriented, but these have degraded over time.

The thruster test went so well; the team will likely do a similar analysis on the TCM thrusters for Voyager 2, the counterpart spacecraft of Voyager 1.

The team will switch over to the TCM thrusters in January, but there is a drawback: they require heaters to operate, which will draw on the probe's limited power. Voyager 1 was already operating on its backup branch of attitude control thrusters.

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