On Wednesday, NASA’s Juno spacecraft went into safe mode, apparently due to a performance program triggering a reboot of the craft’s onboard computer.
The spacecraft, which has been tasked with studying Jupiter, behaved as expected throughout the changeover, restarted effectively and appears to be functioning normally.
NASA said high-speed data capabilities have been restored, and the craft is running diagnostics on its flight software. On-board instruments have been shut down and the scheduled scientific flyby of Jupiter did not happen.
“At the time safe mode was entered, the spacecraft was more than 13 hours from its closest approach to Jupiter,” Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release. “We were still quite a ways from the planet’s more intense radiation belts and magnetic fields. The spacecraft is healthy and we are working our standard recovery procedure.”
Probe Automatically Detecting Unsafe Conditions
The spacecraft is supposed to enter safe mode if its onboard computer notices unexpected conditions. In this instance, the safe mode switched off instruments and some non-critical spacecraft components, and it validated that the spacecraft was pointed in the direction of the sun to be sure the solar arrays acquired power.
Mission supervisors are now to examining an unrelated problem with the performance of a couple of valves that are an aspect of the spacecraft’s propulsion system. Last week NASA decided to delay a burn of the spacecraft’s foremost engine that would have decreased Juno’s orbital period from 53.4 to 14 days.
The next close flyby, with all science instruments on, is slated for Dec. 11,
Jupiter’s cloud formations as seen from the spacecraft (Credit: NASA)
The Juno science team is still investigating returns from the first close flyby on Aug. 27. Details from that flyby revealed Jupiter’s magnetic fields and aurora are greater and stronger than initially thought. Juno’s Microwave Radiometer instrument (MWR) also supplied information that gives mission researchers their first view below the planet’s swirling cloud deck. The radiometer instrument can look approximately 215 to 250 miles below Jupiter’s clouds.
“With the MWR data, it is as if we took an onion and began to peel the layers off to see the structure and processes going on below,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We are seeing that those beautiful belts and bands of orange and white we see at Jupiter’s cloud tops extend in some version as far down as our instruments can see, but seem to change with each layer.”
Raw images from the first flyby were recently made available on the JunoCam website for public viewing. Visitors can also try their hand at processing the images.
“JunoCam has a small operations team and no image processing team, so we took a leap of faith that the public would step up and help us generate images of Jupiter from the raw data,” said Candy Hansen, JunoCam imaging scientist from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “All sorts of people are coming to the JunoCam site and providing their own aesthetic. We have volunteers from all over the world, and they are doing beautiful work. So far all our expectations for JunoCam have not only been met but are being exceeded, and we’re just getting started.”
Image credit: NASA
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