NASA’s Juno probe exits safe mode, set for next Jupiter flyby

Washington: NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft is set for its next close flyby of Jupiter, after exiting its safe mode and completing a minor burn of its thruster engines. The spacecraft had entered safe mode on October 18 when a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft’s onboard computer. The team is still investigating the cause of the reboot and assessing two main engine check valves.

“Juno exited safe mode as expected, is healthy and is responding to all our commands,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US.

“We anticipate we will be turning on the instruments in early November to get ready for our December flyby,” said Nybakken.

In preparation for that close flyby of Jupiter, Juno executed an orbital trim manoeuvre using its smaller thrusters.

The burn, which lasted just over 31 minutes, changed Juno’s orbital velocity by about 2.6 meters per second and consumed about 3.6 kilogrammes of propellant.

Juno will perform its next science flyby of Jupiter on December 11. The complete suite of Juno’s science instruments, as well as the JunoCam imager, will be collecting data during the upcoming flyby.

“We are all excited and eagerly anticipating this next pass close to Jupiter,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

The Juno spacecraft launched on August 5 in 2011, and arrived at Jupiter on July 4 this year.

During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops – as close as about 4,100 kilometres.

During these flybys, Juno probes beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studies its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.