The JUICE spacecraft is facing trouble fully deploying its antenna. (IMage: ESA)
The European Space Agency (ESA) launched its first mission to Jupiter named JUICE earlier this month but it has hit a speed bump already. The JUICE spacecraft is facing trouble fully deploying its Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna that will penetrate the thick icy surfaces of Jupiter's Moons. ESA reported the issue on April 28 with visuals from the JUICE monitoring camera.
#ESAJuice deployment status update: our 16 m-long ice-penetrating RIME antenna is not yet fully deployed as planned. Work is ongoing to resolve an issue currently preventing it from being released from its mounting bracket.
Details 👉 https://t.co/AIr13dQzMw pic.twitter.com/ABC2Ok8DXj— ESA's Juice mission (@ESA_JUICE) April 28, 2023
A success is only made possible thanks to the dedication of the teams involved… And I would like to take a minute to thank the firefighters that are mobilized on site to ensure the safety of the spaceport.#ESAJuice #DestinationJupiter pic.twitter.com/UnHEvWaZfy— Stéphane Israël (@arianespaceceo) April 14, 2023
The agency stated that the mission teams are working to deploy the 16-meter-long antenna which is unable to release from its mounting bracket. "Every day the RIME antenna shows more signs of movement, visible in images from the Juice Monitoring Camera on board the spacecraft with a partial view of the radar and its mount. Now partially extended but still stowed away, the radar is roughly a third of its full intended length," an official statement read.
The engineers believe that the anomaly must be because of a tiny pin that probably got stuck and did not allow the antenna to get released. Moving forward, the teams are planning to execute an engine burn to shake the spacecraft and carry out a series of rotations that will warm JUICE up and set the antenna free. "Juice is otherwise performing excellently after the successful deployment and operation of its mission-critical solar arrays and medium gain antenna, as well as its 10.6-m magnetometer boom," ESA said.
Launched on April 14 from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, JUICE is on an 8-year-long journey to Jupiter. Once it reaches its destination, it will begin probing the gas giant along with the planet's Moons- Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.
The first two months of the journey will be dedicated to the commissioning of the spacecraft and ESA hopes to fully deploy the antenna in the following days. JUICE has a suite of 10 instruments that will help scientists explore the hidden oceans in the three Moons and find out if the conditions there are suitable for life to thrive.