A small hiccup in set of valves of Juno’s fuel pressurisation system may have caused NASA to delay the October 19 rocket engine burn that was designed to put a spacecraft close to Jupiter.
The space agency hasn’t revealed a specific date for the engine burn, but has said that the best time to perform such a burn is at the part of its orbit which is closest to the planet. The next opportunity for the burn would be during its close flyby of Jupiter on December 11. During this period, Juno’s mission team will investigate the set of valves fully to ensure that things do not go wrong on Juno.
Now, with the period reduction maneuver postponed, all of the spacecraft’s science instruments will be gathering data during the upcoming flyby.
Through the burn, which is called the period reduction maneuver (PRM), NASA was to reduce Juno’s orbital period around Jupiter from 53.4 to 14 days. Juno is currently orbiting Jupiter ever since it entered the giant planet’s orbit in July earlier this year after a nearly five-year journey to map the giant planet’s poles, atmosphere and interior.
The solar-powered spacecraft made its first close pass over Jupiter in late August, coming within 2,500 miles of the planet’s dense clouds and beaming back stunning pictures of turbulent storms in the north pole.
Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said that the mission is flexible and this delay in the engine burn for the period reduction maneuver isn’t going to affect the quality of the science that takes place during one of Juno’s close flybys of Jupiter.