NASA contacts Voyager 2 after months of silence

On October 29, NASA confirmed that mission operators could send a series of commands to the Voyager 2 spacecraft that has been exploring space for 43 years. Voyager 2 had been off-line since March, while the only radio antennae capable of sending commands to the spacecraft was down while getting upgrades. The antenna is located in Canterbury, Australia, and is known as Deep Space Station 43.The antenna is 230 feet wide and has been off-line for repairs and upgrades since mid-March. After the signal was sent on October 29, Voyager 2 returned a signal to confirm that it received the signal and executed the commands without issue. The call sent to Voyager 2 was a test of the new hardware recently installed on Deep Space Station 43.

The satellite is part of the NASA Deep Space Network, a collection of radio antennas around the world used to communicate with spacecraft operating beyond the moon. Since the massive dish had gone off-line, mission operators had been able to receive health updates and science data from Voyager 2 but were unable to send commands to the probe.

Voyager 2 launched in 1977 and has traveled billions of miles so far. Among the updates to the antenna are two new radio transmitters. One of those transmitters is used to talk to Voyager 2 and hadn't been replaced in over 47 years. Engineers also upgraded heating and cooling equipment, power supply equipment, and other electronics required to run the new transmitter.

NASA says that the successful call to Voyager 2 is an indication that the disc will be back online in February 2021. DSN project manager Brad Arnold says that what made the upgrade task unique is that work was done on all levels of the antenna from the pedestal at the bottom up to the feed cones hanging above the dish.