OCT 22, 2016 07:47 AM PDT

Two Critical Problems Plague NASA's Juno Probe in Just Two Days

NASA has something to be proud about in terms of its 1 Billion-dollar Juno spacecraft, which is currently observing the Jovian system of our Solar System.
 

NASA's Juno spacecraft is orbiting around Jupiter, but it has experienced a lot of drama in just two recent days of being there.

 Image Credit: NASA

Jupiter is of great interest to astronomers because it’s the largest planet in our Solar System and because it’s a gas giant, which are common in exoplanet discoveries all around the galaxy. Moreover, gas giants are similar to brown dwarfs, something astronomers really want to know a lot more about.
 
Although Juno was sent to Jupiter to study it, and made it there successfully in July, there have reportedly been quite a few problems with the probe in just two recent days of activity during one of its routine orbital fly-bys. The issues mean NASA may have to extend the mission termination date up to two years beyond the February, 2018 date.
 

Problem One: Engine Valve Issues

 
According to one of NASA’s statements, the probe experienced a problem with sticky engine valves during a test fire of the engine on October 19th, which in essence, means NASA is having some problems getting Juno to speed up while it orbits around the gas giant.
 
The engines on the probe are supposed to shorten the time it takes to orbit the planet from 53 days to just two weeks, and unfortunately, two of the engine’s valves were performing below par and are making this process difficult.
 
If they had worked as expected, the mission’s orbital speed could have been sped up at least 4x. For now, NASA says they’re going to revisit this issue at a later date, presumably around December 11th when the probe will have another chance to fire its engines.
 

Problem Two: Computer Issues

 
Another problem to plague the success of Juno as of late is that the spacecraft has entered Safe Mode. This happened while the probe was heading back towards Jupiter via its configured elliptical orbit.
 
The problem occurred at a very inconvenient time, as it kept the probe from taking new photographs of the planet and capturing important information about Jupiter’s magnetic field and radiation that astronomers would have liked to study up close.
 
Juno is designed to enter safe mode whenever anything doesn’t perform as expected as to protect the probe and its valuable information. During safe mode, only the most critical things are able to perform.
 
NASA has reportedly booted it back out of safe mode and restored full operating function, but the timing of the event was certainly less than appreciated by mission staff who wanted to collect data this time around.
 
Overall, the latter problem was probably just a hiccup, but finding the problem that’s causing the sticky valves could be a larger problem. It’s possible NASA can fix it remotely, but if not, this could be a long and drawn-out mission.
 
At the end of the Juno mission, NASA wants to send the Juno spacecraft plummeting into Jupiter’s clouds as a ‘last hurrah’ and to get as much information about the planet’s cloud composition as possible.
 
Source: NASA (1), (2)

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 04, 2018
SpaceX Launched a Satellite Today, But Didn't Recover the Rocket
A SpaceX-branded Falcon 9 rocket ignited all nine of its Merlin engines at a Cape Canaveral, Florida-based launch pad at 12:45 A.M. Eastern time on Monday...
JUN 11, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 11, 2018
Are Nanodiamonds to Blame for Anomalous Microwave Emissions?
Astronomers are always attempting to answer the seemingly endless stream of questions that arise from studying outer space. One of the most crucial questio...
JUL 15, 2018
Videos
JUL 15, 2018
Meet the Rare Binary Asteroid Recently Confirmed by NASA
Astronomers first became aware of an asteroid called YE5 in December of 2017, but something seemed odd about it after they were unable to discern its physi...
JUL 30, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUL 30, 2018
Terraforming Mars Not Possible With Current Technology, Study Suggests
Mars is a bleak and lifeless place today, at least when compared to Earth’s standards. With that in mind, it’d take significant efforts to make...
AUG 27, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 27, 2018
These Are Some of the Oldest Galaxies in the Universe, Astronomers Say
While exploring the depths of the universe, astronomers from Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology and the Harvard-Smithsonian Ce...
SEP 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 17, 2018
SpaceX to Announce First Passenger for Upcoming Commercial Lunar Flight
To date, only 24 humans have journeyed to the Moon. Every one of these visits took place more than four decades ago, with the most recent visit having tran...
Loading Comments...