Europe’s mission to Jupiter is back on track almost a month after launch, after a jammed 16-metre-long radar antenna was finally deployed.
The JUICE spacecraft was scheduled to spend 17 days deploying its 10 mission-critical instruments after leaving Earth on April 14, but its RIME antenna (short for Radar for Icy Moons Explorer) was obstructed by a mounting bracket pin.
JUICE mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, attempted to dislodge the pin by warming the ship’s surface, and later by a quick fuel burn to try and shake it free.
It finally succeeded by firing a mechanical device inside the bracket to shift the pin by millimetres.
RIME will survey the structure of Jupiter’s icy moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa to depths of nearly 10km below the surface.
With all instruments now deployed, JUICE will spend eight years building momentum through a series of gravity-assisted flybys of Earth, the Moon and Venus to hurl it towards Jupiter. It is scheduled to arrive at the solar system’s largest planet in 2031.
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