Voyager 2 found! Deep Space Network hears it chattering in space
Not all heroes wear capes – some are 50-year-old antennas
A signal from Voyager 2 has been detected by NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) over a week after communications with the distant probe were lost, the US agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) on Tuesday.
The disco-era spacecraft was detected by Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex's 70-metre dish, Deep Space Station 43 (DSS43), after a long-shot search.
The five-storey tall dish is the sole facility capable of reaching Voyager 2. It takes over 18 hours for a signal to travel from the probe to the dish, covering a distance of over 19 billion kilometres.
"The Deep Space Network has picked up a carrier signal from [Voyager 2] during its regular scan of the sky. A bit like hearing the spacecraft's 'heartbeat,' it confirms the spacecraft is still broadcasting, which engineers expected," explained JPL.
Communications to VGER2 were severed when a series of planned commands to the probe inadvertently pointed its antenna's aim two degrees away from Earth on July 21. NASA set expectations that the situation would likely resolve on October 15, when the probe is scheduled to perform a regular and preplanned position recalibration.
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NASA had no reason to suggest Voyager 2 would not operate normally unto that date, as there's nothing to stop it hurtling through space at 15 kilometers per second.
So far that expectation holds true.
Engineers will now try to send a corrective command to the probe to get it to turn its antenna to the correct position. If that doesn't work, there's always that reset on October 15.
DSS43 and the 46-year old Voyager have had interruptions in the past, such as in 2020 when the dish was down for 11 months of maintenance that left it unable to send communication for eight months. During that time, data from Voyager 2 could still be received.
Earlier this year a rainstorm saw the DSS43 subreflector flooded, producing a short outage. ®