After Transmitting an Incorrect Command, NASA Detects a “Heartbeat” Signal From Voyager 2

( – In late August 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 2 robotic probe from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (now designated as a US Space Force facility) to study the Sun’s outer planets and interstellar space beyond Earth’s solar system. Administration officials recently experienced transmission issues after sending the vessel an incorrect command. However, a new report indicates it detected a heartbeat signal, a computing term referencing the transmission of nodes of data.

On August 1, NASA issued a statement updating previous information released about an ongoing communications pause with Voyager 2. The notice advised it detected a heartbeat signal from the spacecraft using multiple antennas from the administration’s Deep Space Network (DSN).

Although the signal strength wasn’t strong enough for NASA officials to extract data, its reception confirmed that the probe was still operating on its intended trajectory.

NASA first reported the communications issues on its blog, The Sun Spot, on July 28. The article explained that a set of planned commands transmitted to Voyager 2 accidentally caused the robot probe’s antenna to deviate to a position approximately two degrees from Earth.

That incident meant that Voyager 2 cannot transmit data to Earth or receive commands. Fortunately, the probe is scheduled to reset its position several times annually. The next adjustment is scheduled for October 15 and should reestablish transmission channels between the probe and its Earth-based command center.

The new update noted that the Voyager project’s team would attempt to redirect the antenna sooner, using a DSN antenna to “shout” a command at the vessel, ordering it to adjust its orientation. The notice conceded the effort might not work, meaning it would have to wait for the spacecraft’s October reset.

Voyager 2 exited the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer, its heliosphere, in early November 2018. It is currently located nearly 12.4 billion miles from Earth. Scientists hope to gain valuable information regarding outer space from the probe and its companion vessel, Voyager 1. Launched in September 1977, that spacecraft made its historic entrance into interstellar space in August 2012.

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