ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) Faces RIME Antenna Deployment Issue

Category Space

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ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) is currently facing an issue with the deployment of its RIME antenna, potentially caused by a stuck pin. Despite this, work continues, and mission control teams are deploying various strategies, including engine burns and spacecraft rotations, to deploy the antenna. Updates will be shared as new information arises.

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ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) has encountered a deployment issue with its Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna. The issue, potentially caused by a stuck pin, is being addressed by ESA’s mission control teams with various strategies, including an engine burn and spacecraft rotations. Despite this, Juice’s other instruments are functioning properly, and there’s a two-month window to solve the problem.

Juice was launched from French Guiana on 22 February 2022.

Juice’s ice-penetrating RIME antenna has not yet been deployed as planned. During the first week of commissioning, an issue arose with the 16-meter-long Radar for Icy Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna, which is preventing it from being released from its mounting bracket. Juice is currently 3.5 million km (2.2 million miles) from Earth.

Work continues to free the radar and teams at ESA’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, along with partners in science and industry, have lots of ideas up their sleeves.

The mission is planned to last seven years.

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.

The current leading hypothesis is that a tiny stuck pin has not yet made way for the antenna’s release. In this case, it is thought that just a matter of millimeters could make the difference to set the rest of the radar free.

The mission will explore Jupiter's three giant Galilean moons.

Various options are still available to nudge the important instrument out of its current position. The next steps to fully deploy the antenna include an engine burn to shake the spacecraft a little followed by a series of rotations that will turn Juice, warming up the mount and radar, which are currently in the cold shadows.

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.

The total budget of the mission is around €1.3 billion.

With two months of planned commissioning remaining, there is plenty of time for teams to get to the bottom of the RIME deployment issue and continue work on the rest of the powerful suite of instruments on their way to investigate the outer Solar System.

Updates will be shared as new information becomes available.

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.

The spacecraft has already deployed it's solar arrays and Medium gain antenna.

It is one of ten instruments on board ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, set to investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants and the formation of our Solar System.

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