News came out on Friday that the European Space Agency’s JUICE mission has got a little problem. Its Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna can’t be fully extended from its mounting bracket, which has created a bit of concern. This is an important instrument for the mission which will reach Jupiter and its icy moons in July 2031.
The team believes that a tiny stuck pin is the impediment stopping the full deployment. As they have seen the antenna showing more signs of movement every day, they believe it’s just a matter of millimeters before the antenna can be fully deployed. If the pin is to blame, the team has several solutions.
The first such solution to be attempted is the equivalent of a gentle shake: the team will complete an engine burn to rattle the craft a bit, hoping that this will do the trick. And to be extra sure, JUICE, the mount, and the antenna will then be placed in sunlight – they are currently in the shadows. The team has another two months to sort through this issue – this is the time dedicated to the commissioning phase.
The remaining activated instruments, such as the critical solar arrays, the medium gain antenna, and its 10.6-meter (34.8-foot) long magnetometer boom, are all working fine for the time being.
JUICE is going to do some incredible science around Jupiter and its moons. It will provide definitive answers about the internal structure of Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa and provide insights into the possible habitability of these icy worlds. It will also be the first spacecraft to orbit another moon, once it enters into orbit around Ganymede in 2034.