NASA engineers race to fix veteran spacecraft's corrupted memory

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 06-04-2024 13:43 IST | Created: 06-04-2024 13:43 IST
NASA engineers race to fix veteran spacecraft's corrupted memory
Image Credit: NASA/JPL
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NASA engineers have finally diagnosed the issue plaguing its veteran Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been transmitting indecipherable science and engineering data back to Earth since November 2023. The engineers have confirmed that a small segment of corrupted memory in the spacecraft's flight data subsystem (FDS) is preventing the computer from carrying out normal operations and sending unreadable data to Earth.

The FDS works in tandem with the telemetry modulation unit (TMU) and the spacecraft's radio transmitter to send valuable scientific and engineering information to Earth. About 3% of the FDS memory has been confirmed to be corrupt.

Last month, the Voyager team dispatched a "poke" command to the spacecraft, prompting Voyager 1 to return a readout of the FDS memory, encompassing both the computer's software code and the various variables critical to its operation. Analysis of this data confirmed the memory corruption.

The team suspects that a singular memory chip, tasked with storing a portion of the FDS's data, has failed but the cause of this failure remains uncertain, with possibilities including damage from an energetic space particle or simple wear and tear after the spacecraft's 46 years in service.

The engineers are optimistic that they can devise a strategy for the FDS to operate normally without the unusable memory hardware. This could take weeks or months to implement.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 and its twin probe, Voyager 2, are venturing through interstellar space beyond the Sun's heliosphere. This region, unshielded by the solar bubble of particles and magnetic fields, represents the farthest reaches of human-made objects into the cosmos.

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