What's Up With Juno? The Truth Behind the Engine Trouble, Delays and Wrong Orbit
The ambitious Juno mission sent to space to investigate and observe the harsh environment of Jupiter has been facing not only engine trouble but also a series of other glitches that had already caused major delays in the mission. But how is Juno today?
The last few months have been challenging for NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter. Juno already missed a supposed Jupiter flyby and had entered safe mode last October. And until today, it looks like Juno is not yet catching up with the initial plan.
Last month, an engine burn was supposed to be conducted to place Juno in the low-altitude orbit around Jupiter called the science orbit. That wasn't executed due to a failure in the spacecraft's helium valve. So technically, Juno is currently in the wrong orbit around Jupiter.
Scientists are working hard to put Juno in the 'science orbit' but reports say that NASA already confirmed that another delay is inevitable and that the entry to the correct orbit may not happen sooner.
The orbit insertion was supposed to happen last Oct. 19th. This would have set Juno in a 14-day science orbit from its current 53.5-day elliptical orbit. But it wasn't performed as planned. The next opportunity also known as perijove, Juno's close approach to the gas planet, is set to occur on Dec. 11 and it will be the best time to attempt an orbit change to the science orbit, according to Gizmodo.
However, it is not clear whether an engine burn will be performed this December. What is clear is that Juno will perform a Jupiter flyby where instruments will be facing the gas planet in order to gather data.
"Juno exited safe mode as expected, is healthy and is responding to all our commands," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California said in a press release. "We anticipate we will be turning on the instruments in early November to get ready for our December flyby," Nybakken added.
So far, there is not report as to when NASA plans to perform the engine burn to put Juno in the 14-day science orbit. The next close approach will happen on Feb. 22nd next year and another opportunity on March 27.