Feb 23, 2008

Ulysses probe near to an End

Ulysses, a US-European space probe that has been orbiting the Sun for last 17 years, is on the brink of death. Within one or two month, it will run out of fuel. The European Space Agency (ESA) revealed this news on Friday.

In a joint mission between ESA and NASA, Ulysses was launched by space shuttle in 1990 in the first mission to study the environment of space above and below the poles of the Sun. Ulysses is on a huge, six-year orbit of the Sun that takes it out as far as the orbit of Jupiter.

A radioactive isotope provides Ulysses with power for communications and scientific equipment and for onboard heaters to warm its hydrazine fuel, which freezes when the temperature falls below minus two degrees Celsius (28.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

But the isotope source is now running low, and the Ulysses can no longer send back large quantities of data, nor can it ward off the deep chilling temperature of space. As a result, the fuel lines will freeze up in the next month or two, leaving Ulysses unmanoeuverable and dead. Link


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