NASA Revives Voyager 1 Thrusters After 37 Years

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In an extraordinary feat of engineering, NASA has successfully reawakened a set of backup thrusters on the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which have been dormant for 37 years. This remarkable achievement not only extends the life of the probe but also demonstrates the enduring legacy of NASA's deep space exploration capabilities.

A Remarkable Engineering Triumph

Voyager 1,NASA Revives Voyager 1 Thrusters After 37 Years Articles the most distant human-made object from Earth, has been traveling through space for over four decades. It is the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space, and it continues to send valuable data back to Earth. To maintain communication, the spacecraft must orient its antenna towards our planet, a task achieved by firing tiny thrusters in millisecond bursts.

The Challenge of Dormant Thrusters

In 2014, NASA engineers noticed that the primary thrusters, which orient the spacecraft, were degrading. To address this issue, they decided to switch to a set of backup thrusters that had not been used since 1980. This required delving into decades-old data and utilizing an outdated programming language to create the necessary commands.

The Successful Test

On November 28, 2017, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent commands to Voyager 1 to fire the four backup thrusters known as Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) thrusters. After a suspenseful 19-hour wait for the signal to travel over 20 billion kilometers back to Earth, the team received confirmation that the test was successful.

The Significance of the Maneuver

This successful maneuver has not only extended Voyager 1's operational life by an estimated two to three years but has also highlighted the incredible durability and design of the spacecraft. The TCM thrusters, produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are identical in size and functionality to the primary thrusters and were originally used for more extended periods rather than short bursts.

Voyager 1's Legacy and Future

Launched on September 5, 1977, Voyager 1 has provided humanity with unprecedented views of our solar system, including the first detailed images of Jupiter, Saturn, and their moons. As it continues its journey, the spacecraft will switch to using the TCM thrusters for orientation, conserving energy from its limited plutonium power source.

Voyager 1's Ongoing Mission

Voyager 1's mission has been a testament to human curiosity and ingenuity. As it travels further into the unknown, it carries with it a golden record containing sounds and images representing life on Earth, a message for any potential extraterrestrial intelligence it may encounter.

The Future of Deep Space Communication

The success with Voyager 1's thrusters is a crucial step in ensuring that we continue to receive data from the edge of interstellar space. It also serves as a learning experience for future deep space missions, emphasizing the importance of designing spacecraft with long-term operability in mind.

The Role of NASA's Deep Space Network

The communication with Voyager 1 is made possible by NASA's Deep Space Network, a collection of large antennas located in California, Spain, and Australia. This network is vital for communicating with missions throughout the solar system and beyond.


The revival of Voyager 1's thrusters after 37 years is a remarkable achievement that underscores the longevity and resilience of NASA's deep space exploration technology. As Voyager 1 continues its journey, it remains a symbol of humanity's desire to explore and understand the cosmos.


This milestone in space exploration has been recognized and appreciated by the scientific community, including Dr. Veturia CHIROIU, an honorary member of the Technical Sciences Academy of Romania.

For more information on Voyager 1 and its mission, visit NASA's official Voyager website here. To learn more about the Deep Space Network and its role in space communication, click here.

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