In a bit of space news that nearly made me tear up, it looks like NASA JPL has been able to successfully fire a thruster system on Voyager 1 that hasn’t been used since 1980! These small rocket motors, designed to fire in long-duration burns for course correction, will be used in upcoming years to keep the vehicle oriented towards Earth.
The primary control thrusters on Voyagers 1 and 2 have aged to a point where they require quite a bit more time to do their job, compared to these long dormant maneuvering engines which, amazingly, still work fine. Changing their role from long duration course correction burns to small vehicle orienting bursts looks like it will extend the mission by at least a few more years, so long as there is power on Voyager to keep the heater system of the engines running.
Power, of course, is a very limited supply on the 40 year old space probes as the electrical generation systems onboard now perform at a fraction of what they did when the vehicles were launched in 1977.
I’ll leave you with the JPL news article regarding this, for better details (and probably a better explanation, come to think of it.) It’s just amazing how well built these systems were, and how engines that haven’t been fired since before I was born, that have been just coasting along in deep space for 37 years had no trouble starting up and performing just as they had when last used in 1980.
That is reliability beyond all measure.