NASA’s spacecraft that is currently circling Jupiter has had a rough couple of weeks.
On October 14, it was announced that the engine burn that was to insert Juno into close orbit around the gas giant would be postponed:
Mission managers for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter have decided to postpone the upcoming burn of its main rocket motor originally scheduled for Oct. 19. This burn, called the period reduction maneuver (PRM), was to reduce Juno’s orbital period around Jupiter from 53.4 to 14 days. The decision was made in order to further study the performance of a set of valves that are part of the spacecraft’s fuel pressurization system. The period reduction maneuver was the final scheduled burn of Juno’s main engine.
Juno was still scheduled to pass Jupiter even without this burn, but then the spacecraft encountered more issues:
NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered safe mode Tuesday, Oct. 18 at about 10:47 p.m. PDT (Oct. 19 at 1:47 a.m. EDT). Early indications are a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft’s onboard computer. The spacecraft acted as expected during the transition into safe mode, restarted successfully and is healthy. High-rate data has been restored, and the spacecraft is conducting flight software diagnostics. All instruments are off, and the planned science data collection for today’s close flyby of Jupiter (perijove 2), did not occur.
NASA has until early December to get the engine valve issue straightened out, or it will be another 53 days before the burn can be attempted again. I wouldn’t want to have be feeling the stress the Juno team must have right now, and I hope they get things worked out. It’s a cool mission to a planet we don’t know all that much about.