Science

NASA's Juno Mission Faces Delays Due to Unsolved Engine Problems

By Monica U Santos , Nov 09, 2016 06:07 PM EST

NASA's Juno mission team faces delays on putting their spacecraft around Jupiter. The plan was supposed to happen on October 19, but for some reason, the engine of Juno is acting a little bit strange. Because of this, NASA is now looking to pull off the operation on December 11. The whole Juno mission team hopes to have enough time for them to study and figure out the unsolved engine problems of Juno.

Juno is a NASA space probe orbiting the planet Jupiter. It was built by Lockheed Martin and is operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Its main goal is to understand the origin and evolution of planet Jupiter. Underneath its dense cloud cover, the whole mission believes that Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our solar system during its formation.

According to The Verge, NASA is preparing for Juno to stick around Jupiter a lot longer than it had originally planned. The probe — which has been orbiting the gas giant since July — is going to stay in its 53-day orbit around the planet for a while, with no definitive plans at the moment to put the vehicle in a shorter orbit. Originally, NASA had hoped to have Juno in a two-week orbit by now, but ongoing engine troubles are delaying that move.

The problem regarding Juno's engine started last month when the spacecraft was about to do its second wing to Jupiter. It doesn't orbit the planet in circles but takes a highly elliptical part in order to avoid the radiation-filled environment around the Jupiter. As the engineers said, it is because of the malfunction with a pair of helium valves.

NASA engineers found that a few engine valves were taking longer to open than they were supposed to. "That is something that is significant because it can affect how the engine operates," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, tells The Verge.

According to Gizmodo, as of now, engineers are still trying to find a solution to the helium valve issue. At a Lunar Exploration Analysis Group meeting last week,SpaceNews reports that James Green of the Planetary Science Division described NASA as taking a "very slow" approach to the problem.

"We're going to take another cycle around Jupiter and really study what's happening before we make a decision on what to do next," Green said.

 

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