how NASA can fix satellites, telescopes, and space stations “remotely”?

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Like what are the issues they are fixing that can be fixed remotely? I just envision being able to fix a car you can’t get your hands on. How is that possible?

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3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Sure they can not directly affect the hardware, but they can send a new software to the satellite. That way they can either work around broken things or let the hardware do things that maybe fix some issues.

To stay in the car analogy: If the speedometer in your car is broken, the NASA is maybe not be able to repair it remotely. But they can disable the original speedometer and maybe reprogram your car radio to display your current speed. That is not ideal and never intended like that, but it can help you to continue your expensive mission for a few years more.

Or if you can not look through your windshield anymore, the NASA can try to move your wipers very quickly remotely and hope that it fix your problem. If this is not possible, its maybe possible to work around the problem and maybe use parking assist cameras to look at the street.

Anonymous 0 Comments

They can’t actually repair any physical things remotely, but they can and do perform software updates to fix bugs all the time. The computers on spacecraft can stop working or get bugs just like computers on Earth.

It’s really no different than updating the software or an app on your phone. Your phone connects wireless via cell towers to the internet and downloads software updates. The only difference is that your cell phone uses weak signals over short distances, and spacecraft use strong signals over large distances.

I suspect that you’re asking about the recent fix that NASA sent to Voyager 1. What happened there is that part of the spacecraft’s computer became corrupted which caused it to stop sending meaningful data to Earth. NASA sent new code (in other words, a software update) that would allow the computer on Voyager 1 to bypass the corrupted section.

Anonymous 0 Comments

You ever have something wrong with your computer and you reboot it, and magically it’s fixed? It’s like that. You didn’t actually “fix” anything, but sometimes when software runs long enough it gets into a buggy state that looks like hardware issues. There can be all sorts of software issues that can be fixed by sending commands to the spacecraft. 

Alternatively if you know what’s broken, you can send commands to use what works to compensate for what is broken. For example if the craft thinks all the thrusters are working and if one is not, it may not move correctly. But if you update the controls you can have the remaining thrusters compensate for the broken one.