CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A Voyager spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral Saturday for a flyby of the planets Jupiter and Saturn but almost immediately ran into serious technical difficulties.
The spacecraft's own systems shut down one of the three gyroscopes aboard, leaving only the two necessary for operation and nothing in reserve.
Additionally, radio signals from the spacecraft indicated that a scientific instrument boom carrying two television cameras and several other vital instruments had failed to fully deploy.
John Casani, project manager for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said, "I would say that as of now, the spacecraft is in trouble."
Asked whether the difficulties might delay the scheduled Sept. 1 launching of another Voyager, he said, "I thjnk I would have to say yes.
Casani indicated that the boom deployment problem might be only a result of faulty radio reporting and electronic reporting aboard the spacecraft. He said if the boom is partially deployed and locked, the scientific experiments it is scheduled to perform might be salvaged.
But he said that if the boom is loose and "flopping around," it would be impossible for it to carry out its functions.
Casani said it was hoped the nature of the two problems might be better understood by Sunday.
The $500 million Voyager project is the last deep space project planned by the United States for the next decade, during which NASA will concentrate on the manned space shuttle flights.
Attached to the top of the 1,820-pound Voyager Spacecraft is a 12-inch copper disc which carries sounds and pictures of earth. It was built to last more than a billion years and if an inhabitant of a world unknown to man should find it, ages years from now, it will provide a good insight into life on our planet.
A minor computer problem at the Pasadena, Calif., tracking station had threatened to delay the launch Saturday but it was corrected before the end of the built-in, 10-minute hold period for the launch.
Another last-minute problem was the presence of three boats in the security area off-shore from Cape Canaveral. They were chased out of the area by an Air Force helicopter.
THE LAUNCH began what NASA's chief project scientist Dr. Edeward Stone described as "a decade of discovery, a very exciting decade of discovery."
Voyager 2 along with a speedier Voyager 1, the one scheduled for launching Sept. 1, will take 16 months to get within picture range of the solar system's biggest planet, Jupiter.
Scientists hope the twin Voyagers, carrying 12-foot communications antennas which are the largest ever put Into space, will answer questions about Jupiter's clouds and its moons, the rings of Saturn and maybe even the mysterious Uranus, where rings were discovered just last spring.
Then the spacecraft will pass within 173,000 miles of Jupiter before picking up speed from the slingshot effect of Jupiter's powerful gravity. This will hurl it toward Saturn, even further away.
Voyager 1 will come within 86,000 miles of Saturn on Nov. 12, 1980, and take about 8,000 pictures before coasting out into space beyond the limits of the solar system.
The Voyagers will escape from our solar system at 38,700 miles an hour and each must travel at least 40,000 years before passing another star. Even then the point of closest approach will be six trillion miles from that star.
A second approach to a star will occur in 1 47,000 years, and a third in 525,000.