The unit Juno will remain at the same distance from Jupiter

A potential engine problem prompted the space agency to cancel plans for moving to a 14-day orbit, although mission goals can still be accomplished with today's 53-day ones.

The unit Juno will remain at the same distance from Jupiter

The NASA spacecraft took off right above Jupiter’s south pole when JunoCam took this photo on February 2, 2017 from an altitude of 62,800 miles (101,000 km). This image was processed by civilian scientist John Landino. The expansion of color emphasizes bright high clouds and numerous sinuous oval storms.

The scientists hoped to bring Juno’s orbit closer so that it revolved around Jupiter every 14 days. But the engine brake pulse, scheduled for October last year, was canceled after two helium valves, which are part of the main engine of the spacecraft, did not work properly when the system was under pressure.

Telemetry from the spacecraft showed that it took a few minutes to open the valves, while earlier it took just a couple of seconds, ”NASA said in a report on Friday.

Engineers studied the problem for several months, and in the end, NASA decided that it was not worth the risk, since Juno can perform the tasks, without changing the orbit.

“We considered various scenarios that would translate Juno into a shorter orbital period. But there was a fear that the engine burn could shift to a less desirable position, ”said project manager Rick Nybakken from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The bottom line is that the burn runs the risk of completing the mission prematurely.” “Scientific research will be as impressive as the results of our initial plan,” added lead researcher Scott Bolton of the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

Juno, who reached Jupiter on July 4th, performs key scientific measurements when he is closest to the planet, which happens every 14 or 53 days.

“The worst-case scenario is that you just have to show more patience,” Bolton said after a problem with the engine in October.

The spacecraft is in excellent condition, so mission managers are likely to request funding from NASA to extend the mission, which was to be completed on July 31, 2018, after 12 close approaches.

Bolton noted that the further Juno travels from Jupiter, the less time the device will spend near the murderous radiation belts of the planet, and therefore its shelf life will increase.

“This is important because radiation is the only factor limiting Juno,” he said.

With a close approach, Juno soars at an altitude of 2600 miles above the clouds. These data will help scientists figure out how much water is on the planet, as well as how and where the largest planet of the solar system was formed.

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