ESA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft JUICE experiences glitch with antenna in deep space
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission, which was launched on April 14, 2023, from the ESA spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana has experienced a glitch with its antenna.
The agency took to Twitter and shared an update on the deployment status of the ice-penetrating Radar for the Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna and said that it could not yet be deployed as per the plan.
"During the first week of commissioning, an issue arose with the 16-metre-long RIME antenna, which is preventing it from being released from its mounting bracket," the agency said in a statement.
The ESA added that the work is ongoing "to free the radar" and teams at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany, along with partners in science and industry, "have lots of ideas up their sleeves".
JUICE is ESA's first mission ever to find traces of alien life on Jupiter. It will reach Jupiter's orbit by July 2031 which is roughly 628 million kilometres (390 million miles) away from planet Earth.
First, it will do a fly-by of Earth and the Moon, then will slingshot around Venus in 2025 before swinging past Earth again in 2029.
Once the probe arrives in 2031, it will need to very carefully hit the brakes to enter Jupiter's orbit.
From there, JUICE will focus on Jupiter and its three icy, ocean-bearing moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Sharing an update on the status of the JUICE mission, ESA said that it 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".
Pictures captured by the Juice Monitoring Camera aboard the spacecraft show more signs of movement in the RIME antenna.
What is RIME instrument?
As per ESA's website, the RIME instrument is an ice-penetrating radar designed to study the surface and subsurface structure of Jupiter’s icy moons down to a depth of 9 km.
It is one of 10 instruments on board ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, set to probe the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and the formation of our Solar System.