The European House Company’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is heading again to Earth — in the meanwhile, anyway.
On Nov. 17, JUICE carried out a 43-minute burn to get into place for its upcoming Earth-moon flyby, the first-ever double gravity assist of the 2 celestial our bodies. It was the spacecraft’s largest maneuver up to now. “This maneuver used up roughly 363 kilograms [800 pounds] of gasoline – or virtually precisely 10% of the three,650 kilograms [8,047 pounds] of gasoline that JUICE launched with,” Julia Schwartz, Flight Dynamics Engineer at ESA’s ESOC mission management heart in Germany, mentioned in a statement.
The spacecraft launched from French Guiana on April 23, 2023, and is in the end certain for Jupiter to research the planet and three of its icy, doubtlessly oceanic, moons: Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. However so as to get there, it wants to carry out a sequence of gravity assists, flying previous the planets of the interior photo voltaic system and utilizing their gravitational tides to slingshot itself towards its goal — a way that saves total gasoline.
This burn is one of two obligatory to put JUICE on the best trajectory for the Earth-moon gravity help, the primary within the series of assists, which will happen in Aug. 2024. “This primary burn did 95% of the work, altering JUICE’s velocity by virtually 200 meters per second [656 feet per second],” mentioned Schwartz. “JUICE is one of the heaviest interplanetary spacecraft ever launched, with a complete mass of round 6,000 kilograms [13,228 pounds], so it took rather a lot of power and rather a lot of gasoline to obtain this.”
Within the coming weeks, ESA will analyze JUICE’s new orbit earlier than calibrating a second burn to fine-tune the probe’s trajectory for the double gravity help. “If all goes effectively with each elements of this maneuver, we possible received’t want to use the principle engine once more till we enter orbit round Jupiter in 2031,” Ignacio Tanco, JUICE Spacecraft Operations Supervisor, mentioned in an announcement. “For small trajectory corrections between now and then, we will use JUICE’s smaller thrusters.”
This primary burn was a very difficult one, as elements of it could not be examined prematurely. “For instance, we solely had an estimate for the way the liquid within the gasoline tanks will transfer round because the spacecraft accelerates,” mentioned Tanco. “This is essential to know exactly, as a result of if the gasoline behaves completely different to how we count on, it might trigger the spacecraft to drift off track through the burn. So, we’re monitoring intently.”
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The group will use knowledge from this burn to assist inform future burns for the probe’s Jupiter insertion, when JUICE will want to decelerate by roughly one kilometer per second (0.62 miles per second) to enter Jovian orbit finally.
For now, it is a ready sport to see if JUICE is headed again our method.