After Eight-Month Break, Deep Space Network Reconnects With Voyager 2

When the news broke recently that communications had finally been re-established with Voyager 2, I felt a momentary surge of panic. I’ve literally been following the Voyager missions since the twin space probes launched back in 1977, and I’ve been dreading the inevitable day when the last little bit of plutonium in their radioisotope thermal generators decays to the point that they’re no longer able to talk to us, and they go silent in the abyss of interstellar space. According to these headlines, Voyager 2 had stopped communicating for eight months — could this be a quick nap before the final sleep?

Thankfully, no. It turns out that the recent blackout to our most distant outpost of human engineering was completely expected, and completely Earth-side. Upgrades and maintenance were performed on the Deep Space Network antennas that are needed to talk to Voyager. But that left me with a question: What about the rest of the DSN? Could they have not picked up the slack and kept us in touch with Voyager as it sails through interstellar space? The answer to that is an interesting combination of RF engineering and orbital dynamics.

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Quick And Dirty Trebuchet Flings Mashed Potato

Thanksgiving is just round the corner and [mrak_ripple] was worried about serving food under social distancing conditions. Rather than bother with standard best practice, he chose to take a more exciting route – flinging side dishes with miniature siege weaponry. (Video, embedded below.)

The mashed potato trebuchet is a build in the modern style, relying on 8020 aluminium extrusion to allow for quick and easy assembly. It also takes advantage of what appears to be a heavy duty laser cutter, which creates strong steel brackets to hold everything together. The launcher cup to hold the mash is a 3D printed part, created in resin and held on the end of the arm with duct tape, since appropriate bolts didn’t fall to hand.

In the end, repeatability was a struggle, and we suspect the trebuchet won’t actually do food service on the holiday itself. However, it could certainly make for a fun game after dinner, seeing who can get the most mash onto a willing target. We’d love to see a mash cannon too, so if you’ve built one, drop us a line. Of course, if you’re into weirder, high performance designs, the flywheel trebuchet may be more your speed. Video after the break.

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Really Useful Robot

[James Bruton] is an impressive roboticist, building all kinds of robots from tracked, exploring robots to Boston Dynamics-esque legged robots. However, many of the robots are proof-of-concept builds that explore machine learning, computer vision, or unique movements and characteristics. This latest build make use of everything he’s learned from building those but strives to be useful on a day-to-day basis as well, and is part of the beginning of a series he is doing on building a Really Useful Robot. (Video, embedded below.)

While the robot isn’t quite finished yet, his first video in this series explores the idea behind the build and the construction of the base of the robot itself. He wants this robot to be able to navigate its environment but also carry out instructions such as retrieving a small object from a table. For that it needs a heavy base which is built from large 3D-printed panels with two brushless motors with encoders for driving the custom wheels, along with a suspension built from casters and a special hinge. Also included in the base is an Nvidia Jetson for running the robot, and also handling some heavy lifting tasks such as image recognition.

As of this writing, [James] has also released his second video in the series which goes into detail about the mapping and navigation functions of the robots, and we’re excited to see the finished product. Of course, if you want to see some of [James]’s other projects be sure to check out his tracked rover or his investigations into legged robots.

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