Nasa lost communication with the Voyager 2 spacecraft on July 21. The spacecraft, currently situated nearly 20 billion kilometres away from Earth, has since re-established contact with operators. While it is still operational, full communication has not yet been restored.
For several days following July 21st, Nasa was uncertain about the spacecraft’s status. It was not until August 1 that multiple ground antennas from the Deep Space Network (DSN) detected a carrier signal from the probe.
The spacecraft uses a carrier signal to transmit data back to Earth. However, Nasa confirmed that the signal detected by DSN was too weak to send any information. Even so, the signal was enough to ensure that Voyager 2 was functioning and still on course.
Nasa detected a faint “carrier signal” from Voyager 2 on July 31. This signal would normally contain real-time data if the antenna was correctly aligned. However, since it wasn’t aligned properly, the signal wasn’t strong enough to extract any information from it.
Rather than waiting until October, the Voyager team on the ground decided to take action. They developed a plan to send a command to the spacecraft using the DSN, instructing it to turn its antenna back towards Earth. It took 18.5 hours for the message to reach the probe and another 18.5 hours for Nasa to receive science and telemetry data, confirming that Voyager 2 had received the command.
Voyager 2 was launched back in 1977, and it has been travelling toward the outer edges of the solar system and into interstellar space ever since. It is currently the second-most distant spacecraft from Earth, with Voyager 1 being almost 24 billion kilometres away. Despite being launched 46 years ago, some of its scientific instruments, such as its magnetometer and cosmic ray detector, are still functioning and transmitting data back to Earth.
Nasa predicts both Voyager 1 and 2 will remain connected with the DSN until 2036, they state that the collection of “science data won’t likely be collected after 2025.”