Review Article Open Access

NASA Started a Propeller set on Board Voyager 1 After 37 Years of Break

Relly Victoria Virgil Petrescu1, Raffaella Aversa2, Antonio Apicella2, Samuel Kozaitis3, Taher Abu-Lebdeh4 and Florian Ion Tiberiu Petrescu1
  • 1 Bucharest Polytechnic University, Romania
  • 2 Second University of Naples, Italy
  • 3 Florida Institute of Technology, United States
  • 4 North Carolina A and T State University, United States


If you try to start a car that has been in the garage for decades, you expect the engine not to respond. But a set of propellers onboard the NASA Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched on Wednesday, November 29, 37 years after its last use without any problems. Voyager 1 is the only man-made object that has arrived in interstellar space, being also the space probe created by NASA, which travels at the highest speed and is at the highest distance from Terra. The probe flies for 40 years and can change its position to keep its antenna pointing to the Terra using some small propellers operating in very short halves, in the order of milliseconds. NASA's Voyager team has been able to launch a set of back-up propellants that had not been in use since 1980. The test succeeds in extending Voyager 1's life to a minimum of 2-3 years. In 2014, NASA engineers noticed that Voyager's propellers used to change direction degraded. Over time, propellers end up working longer than normal to get the same effect on the direction of the probe. NASA experts have designed several working scenarios to solve the problem and concluded that it is best to use a series of back-up engines to control the probe's direction. These propellants had not been used for 37 years. NASA has been forced to search for decades old archives and use an obsolete programming language that no one uses to compile commands that have been transmitted by radio waves to the small computer on board to Voyager 1. The probe is more than 20 billion km from Terra. In the early years of the mission, Voyager 1 passed past Jupiter, Saturn and some of the satellites of these planets. In order to maintain the correct distance and orientation of on-board instruments, engineers used a series of Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TCM) with dedicated, but identical size and functionality to those used for small flight corrections. These propellers used to correct the trajectory are placed on the back of the probe. After the encounter with Saturn, Voyager 1 did not need them, the last use being on November 8, 1980. These propellers had been used in a different way, meaning they were operating for long periods, not for very short-lived pulses. All engines on board Voyager were produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the same type of engine being installed on other spacecraft such as Cassini and Dawn. On November 28, Voyager engineers started the four TCM engines and tested their ability to steer the probe using 10 millisecond pulses. Researchers were then forced to wait for the test results to travel through space, in the form of radio waves, to be received after 19 h and 35 min by an antenna from Goldstone, California, part of NASA's Deep Space network.

American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Volume 11 No. 1, 2018, 66-77


Submitted On: 9 December 2017 Published On: 23 December 2017

How to Cite: Virgil Petrescu, R. V., Aversa, R., Apicella, A., Kozaitis, S., Abu-Lebdeh, T. & Petrescu, F. I. T. (2018). NASA Started a Propeller set on Board Voyager 1 After 37 Years of Break. American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 11(1), 66-77.

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  • Voyager 1
  • Propellers
  • NASA
  • Space Agency