February 23, 2024

ESA’s Juicy Jupiter mission is back on track after mission control in Darmstadt, Germany managed to free and deploy a stuck piercing ice radar (RIME) antenna for the Ice Moon Exploration (RIME) antenna.

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (Juice) mission to study the planet’s moons and orbit Ganymede has almost ended early, and its eight-year voyage to the giant planet has only just begun, which has been a slow mail bite for ESA case.

After a seemingly flawless launch from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, on April 14, 2023, the spacecraft entered a months-long commissioning phase in which its instruments will be deployed and commissioned to ensure They are ready to launch to work. Then the 16-meter (52-foot) RIME antenna jammed after extending only a third of the way and refusing to swing into the open position.

RIME antenna moves into place
RIME antenna moves into place


The most likely culprit is a small pin sticking out a few millimeters too far, holding the antenna in place. Since the ship didn’t have a robotic arm handy to hit it with a giant mallet, engineers came up with an alternative. They spun the spacecraft into the sun to heat it up, like one might run a jam jar under a hot tap to loosen it. Then they fired up the thrusters, trying to shake the antenna loose. It moves a little, but not enough.

Then, on May 12, the team fired a non-explosive actuator (NEA), which created a mechanical shock large enough to move the pin and release the antenna, which swung sharply away from the spacecraft and extended itself. Then activate a second actuator in the antenna retaining bracket, causing it to self-unfold and lock into place.

Juice is now on its way to Jupiter and will fly by the Earth, Moon, Venus and Mars. That would give it enough speed to reach Jupiter by January 2031.

source: ESA