The European House Company’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is heading again to Earth — in the intervening time, 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 help of the 2 celestial our bodies. It was the spacecraft’s largest maneuver to this point. “This maneuver used up roughly 363 kilograms [800 pounds] of gas – or nearly precisely 10% of the three,650 kilograms [8,047 pounds] of gas that JUICE launched with,” Julia Schwartz, Flight Dynamics Engineer at ESA’s ESOC mission management heart in Germany, mentioned in a assertion.
The spacecraft launched from French Guiana on April 23, 2023, and is in the end certain for Jupiter to review the planet and three of its icy, doubtlessly oceanic, moons: Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. However with the intention to get there, it must carry out a collection 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 gas.
This burn is one in all two crucial to place JUICE on the proper trajectory for the Earth-moon gravity help, the primary within the collection of assists, which can happen in Aug. 2024. “This primary burn did 95% of the work, altering JUICE’s velocity by nearly 200 meters per second [656 feet per second],” mentioned Schwartz. “JUICE is among the heaviest interplanetary spacecraft ever launched, with a complete mass of round 6,000 kilograms [13,228 pounds], so it took loads of drive and loads of gas to realize this.”
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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 nicely with each elements of this maneuver, we doubtless gained’t want to make use of the primary 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 at times, we are going to 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 gas tanks will transfer round because the spacecraft accelerates,” mentioned Tanco. “This is essential to know exactly, as a result of if the gas behaves totally different to how we anticipate, it might trigger the spacecraft to float astray in the course of the burn. So, we’re monitoring intently.”
The crew will use information from this burn to assist inform future burns for the probe’s Jupiter insertion, when JUICE might want to decelerate by roughly one kilometer per second (0.62 miles per second) to enter Jovian orbit eventually.
For now, it is a ready recreation to see if JUICE is headed again our approach.