Uptime 15,364 days - The Computers of Voyager

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Uptime 15,364 days - The Computers of Voyager

Postby Moppy » Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:06 am

The Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes, both launched in 1977, each had a primary objective to explore Jupiter and Saturn. This goal was achieved by 1981. Yet Voyager, NASA's longest running mission, has continued to this day. Both Voyager probes are still operating, and returning scientific data from outside our solar system.

This talk explores the computing systems of Voyager - the systems which enable remote control of the spacecraft, and provide for the recording and return of data to Earth. These systems have proved to be both adaptable, durable, and resilient in support of a scientific undertaking now in it's fifth decade.

What can we learn from the engineering of Voyager's computing systems? Why have they survived for so long in the harsh environment of space? What is involved in patching a system from a billion miles away? And what does the future hold?
43 years without a reboot. Design lifetime: about 5 years.

edit: This is a very technical talk. It may be borderline inappropriate for this board, but may still be interesting.
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Re: Uptime 15,364 days - The Computers of Voyager

Postby Reynard » Fri Nov 01, 2019 11:14 am

The more complex the plumbing, the easier to stop up the drain.

Comparatively, the Voyager computers are very simple as well as the survey systems on board leading to inherent durability. They also didn't design these systems for planned obsolescence as we're used to in everyday products.

Re: Uptime 15,364 days - The Computers of Voyager

Postby Moppy » Fri Nov 01, 2019 5:45 pm

One of the questions at the end was amusing. What security exists on the Voyager communications link? He replied “Nothing I know of, so either none, or classified.“

My response to that is “Police are hunting for a hacker who has a mobile dish about the size of a football pitch. Please report any sightings of exceptionally large trailers.”

I remember the US decoding some Soviet space signals before the Soviets did, so I know the US has certainly thought about basic data link security here.

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