NASA has resumed communication with the orbital spacecraft after several months with no means of establishing contact with Voyager 2.

NASA has resumed communication with the record-setting orbital spacecraft after several months with no means of establishing contact with Voyager 2.

The connectivity collapse, lasting almost eight months and a whole pandemic after March, was not attributed to any rogue fault, nor some outer space anomaly run-in (although there is that too).

It was more of a case of regular maintenance in this example. And then, since the Voyager 2 is one of the farthest-flying Earth-made object in existence, leaving behind the planet and indeed the whole solar system, nothing else is really normal.

In March 2020, ScienceAlert reported that NASA declared that Deep Space Station 43 (DSS-43) in Australia, the only transmitter on Earth capable of transmitting commands to Voyager 2, required important changes that would have to be shut down for nearly 11 months for the work to be completed.

Voyager 2, which is actually more than 18.7 billion kilometers (11.6 billion miles) from Earth and is getting further all the time, will not be able to receive any signals from Earth during this era, while scientists will still transmit their own transmissions back to us.

Welcome Back, Voyager 2!

Fortunately, NASA announced that Voyager 2 has returned a signal verifying receipt of the guidance and has implemented the commands without problems.

As it stands, the reconstruction of DSS-43 is still continuing and on schedule to be finished in February 2021, but enough of the enhancements have been installed to begin preliminary research.

While NASA was unable to submit Voyager 2 complete commands, at the end of October, when the antenna was largely reassembled, it sent one test message to the spacecraft. A system onboard named the command loss timer is used to help the spacecraft decide if it has lost touch with Earth and, by entering into a type of electronic slumber, can secure itself. The October test reset the timer, and the spacecraft was successfully instructed to begin working.

“What makes this task unique is that we’re doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the centrer of the dish that extend above the rim,” says NASA Deep Space Network project manager Brad Arnold.

“This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing.”

Suzanne Dodd, project manager for the Voyager mission and chief of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Interplanetary Network Directorate, told the New York Times that the DSN people in Canberra did a remarkable job under pandemic circumstances only to update DSS 43.

She also shared her utter faith in the antenna that it would work just perfectly for a couple more decades. Way beyond the Voyagers until they’re finished.


The records for the farthest a spacecraft have ever flown and for the longest-running mission are kept by Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Over the years, Voyager 2 has seen a few hiccups, but in the dark it is always finding its way through, creating observations about the borders dividing our planetary system from the majority of the galaxy of the Milky Way.

As Voyager 2 continues chugging along, Ms. Dodd and her team are planning to turn off the Low Energy Charged Particle device, one of their scientific sensors. Doing so would ensure that the spacecraft’s small power supply will maintain its other systems warm enough to operate, especially its telecommunications transmitter.

Although it will decrease the science performance of the spacecraft, survival is the key priority now.

The team expects that both spacecraft will run for another four to eight years, and the team was awarded three more years of flying time by NASA last year.

Originally Published at Science Times