Voyager Fires Thrusters

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All of Voyager's thrusters were developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The same kind of thruster, called the MR-103, flew on other NASA spacecraft as well, such as Cassini and Dawn.

Since 2014, engineers have noticed that the thrusters Voyager 1 has been using to orient the spacecraft, called "attitude control thrusters," have been degrading. Over time, the thrusters require more puffs to give off the same amount of energy.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM "trajectory correction maneuver" thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA's Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly—and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

The plan going forward is to switch to the TCM thrusters in January. To make the change, Voyager has to turn on one heater per thruster, which requires power—a limited resource for the aging mission. When there is no longer enough power to operate the heaters, the team will switch back to the attitude control thrusters.

The thruster test went so well, the team will likely do a similar test on the TCM thrusters for Voyager 2, the twin spacecraft of Voyager 1. The attitude control thrusters currently used for Voyager 2 are not yet as degraded as Voyager 1's, however.

"With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years," said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Just came across my phone. Amazing, what's next, an encounter?
The regular Attitude Control Thrusters have been noticed to be degrading over time. They switched to using the TCM thrusters (not normally used for attitude control) because the RTG units are still putting enough energy out to provide heating for those them. In a few years the RTGs will not have enough power and they will switch back to the ACTs and use them, even though they are degrading for some reason. Overall outcome should be mission extended :)

If you were an engineer on that project I think you would be very happy to see your hardware still flying after so long :cool:
She seems to be fairing better then the 6th probe in the Voyager series. Story from NASA was that one fell into a 'black hole' or somesuch.