New Horizon’s mission managers recently said that there would no longer be any sudden transmission disruptions between the piano-sized craft and the mission controllers like the one that knocked it offline this weekend.
New Horizons spacecraft is slated to perform a historic flyby of Pluto on July 14, so all instruments should run smoothly by then especially because the distance between the craft and its controllers is so huge that it takes nine hours for a command signal from Earth to hit the probe and return back.
Mission engineers explained that the craft’s computer is set for reboot whenever a glitch occurs. Moreover, the system would resume the last activity it was working on without additional hassle.
Glen Fountain, the mission’s project manager, told journalists Monday that the operation would be very much the same like rebooting a personal computer. Alan Stern, the mission’s head investigator, explained what happened this weekend. Reportedly, the tiny craft experienced a “speed bump” on Saturday.
The “bump” was the result of a system overload, the team added. As mission’s controllers were uploading the entire command sequence required for the July 14 encounter, the probe was also trying to compress large chunks of data it had acquired to save storage space on a recorder.
In the meantime, the processor broke down and decided to take a break. The probe’s central computer is also equipped with a software that manages these kinds of situations by temporarily shutting down communications with Earth.
On Saturday, the said software shut down the main computer, switched to the backup computer and pushed the system into safe mode to prevent collateral hardware damages. Roughly an hour later, the communications returned to normal.
Mission’s project manager said that the team detected what was wrong with the computer in less than 15 minutes after they had re-established contact. Fountain also explained that the amount of data New Horizons tried to tightly pack on Saturday was considerably larger than the test sample that had been used in previous simulations.
“These two events will not happen concurrently again,”
On the other hand, New Horizon’s team is accustomed with safe mode episodes. The probe entered safe mode about nine times since its launch in 2006. As of now, the probe needs a couple of days to be able to resume data gathering operations. That’s because a command signal that travels at the speed of light needs 4.5 days to travel from Earth to the spacecraft and 4.5 more days for the spacecraft’s response to reach Earth. Sadly, the probe missed 30 scientific observations which were scheduled for this weekend.
Image Source: WoodTV 8