Author: EIS Release Date: May 23, 2023
Working on the Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) Mission, engineers at the European Space Agency have managed to remotely fix the operation of its Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna.
Following a successful launch of the craft in mid-April, for four weeks the 16-metre-long boom couldn’t escape its mounting bracket, as was planned. Flight controllers suspected that a small pin had jammed other segments in place – only the first segments of each half of the folded-up antenna were deployed.
The problem, however, has now been overcome. ESA has described the actions of its mission control centre in Darmstadt:
“To try to shift the pin, they shook Juice using its thrusters, then they warmed Juice with sunlight. Every day the RIME antenna was showing signs of movement, but no full release.”
“On 12 May RIME was finally jolted into life when the flight control team fired a mechanical device called a ‘non-explosive actuator’ (NEA), located in the jammed bracket. This delivered a shock that moved the pin by a matter of millimetres and allowed the antenna to unfold.”
The antenna is now released and stabilised into an extended, locked position.
Once ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) arrives at Jupiter, it will use RIME to study the surface and subsurface structure of the planet’s icy moons down to a depth of 9 km. RIME is one of ten instruments on board Juice to investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and the formation of the Solar System.
Pictured above, the second stuck part of the RIME antenna is deployed. Pictured below (GIF), the first stuck part of the RIME antenna deploys.
The Juice mission was successfully launched, on an Ariane 5 rocket, from French Guiana on Friday 14th April
After a long eight-year journey to Jupiter, the mission will make detailed observations of the gas giant and its three large ocean-bearing moons – Ganymede, Callisto and Europa – with a suite of instruments.
It is expected to be reaching Ganymede in December 2034. According to the space agency:
“The mission will characterise these moons as both planetary objects and possible habitats, explore Jupiter’s complex environment in depth, and study the wider Jupiter system as an archetype for gas giants across the Universe.”
ESA adds that Juice will complete a number of Solar System firsts. For example, it will be the first spacecraft ever to orbit a moon other than our own – Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede. Also, en route to Jupiter, it will perform the first ever lunar-Earth gravity assist to save propellant.