back to article ESA's Jupiter-bound Juice spacecraft has a sticky problem with its radar

A tiny pin stuck in place on ESA's Juice spacecraft may be preventing engineers from unfurling its 16-metre-long antenna as it zooms toward Jupiter. Launched two weeks ago, the probe just started its eight-year voyage to the largest planet in our Solar System to take a closer look at the Jovian moons first spotted by Galileo …

  1. Zebo-the-Fat

    Simple fix

    Simple fix, just needs a little percussive mainainance!

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Simple fix

      To quote Ronnie Barker (as Arkwright)

      You just need to j-j-j-jiggle it a bit

  2. ravenviz Silver badge

    No doubt the expert ground team will work it loose, but the science team will also be planning for backup mission objectives.

  3. Alumoi Silver badge

    And, a couple of months later, a new On call story.

    1. IanTP

      Who Me?

      probably more like a Who Me? :)

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Who Me?

        The "Remove Before Flight" pin? Why do you ask...?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Has anyone seen a missing “remove before flight” tag?

  5. Sam not the Viking

    More perchase needed....

    Perhaps it's pining for the fjords?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: More perchase needed....

      Yes, that could be the RIME or Reason

  6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    I often wonder... many of the people involved in these long term probe missions have in the back of their minds the likelihood that Starship will, over the next few years, make it much, much cheaper to send probes on higher velocity orbits and send newer, better and bigger probes that will get there faster merely by being able to boost a cheaper more fuel-filled probe into orbit for much less money.

    A pint or three of barley Juice for everyone involved, it's still great science and engineering :-)

    1. Malcolm Weir

      Re: I often wonder...

      I can't imagine anyone jumping on the idea that interplanetary boost is a good idea! If you have additional mass available because your launch vehicle is bigger, the payload people will seize it all with great cries of joy!

    2. Simon Harris

      Re: I often wonder...

      If you’ve got a giant rocket to get you there faster, does it make the orbit insertion that much more demanding when you arrive?

      Is there a tradeoff that says you can’t go that fast because for the size of the probe it makes the orbital insertion burn infeasible?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I often wonder...

        Nah. To get gravitationally captured, the amount of velocity you need to lose when you get to Jupiter depends largely on the size of the mismatch between your orbital velocity and Jupiter's.

        See for a rough introduction to the mechanics of where you can go when, when you are flying mostly directly to your destination.

        JUICE is taking a long time to get to Jupiter because its path involves a lot of gravity assists to get there. It also uses a lot of gravity assists from the Jovian moons in order to get captured by Jupiter.

        More delta-v gives you more options about where to go when. Gravity assists are very cheap in terms of delta-v but take a very long time.

        Bigger rockets give you only marginally more delta-v because the rocket equation has a logarithm in it.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: I often wonder...

      And some prune juice for the pin

    4. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: I often wonder...

      NASA's Europa Clipper will be launched in October 2024 and arrive a year ahead of JUICE. Science vol 380 issue 6640 page 22.

      1. spold Silver badge

        Re: I often wonder...

        I guess Juice will be pipped to the post then.

  7. werdsmith Silver badge

    FFS SpaceTech, you had one job…

  8. TeeCee Gold badge

    This sort of fault seems so common that I am amazed that a long, multijointed, robotic arm, ending in a small hammer, is not considered a "must have" on any unmanned space probe.

    1. Simon Harris

      Or a companion probe that flies alongside whose one job is to squirt a bit of WD40 at the main probe when necessary.

    2. Martin an gof Silver badge

      I just think that having an onboard camera capable of snapping pictures of the probe itself is a good idea. There have been many occasions over the decades when I wondered why this hadn't been done, especially since the things are incredibly small and cheap these days and as engineers said things like "we're pretty certain x is the problem, but we can't know for certain because we can't actually see it". In terms of probes, the obvious example is an earlier Jupiter mission - Galileo - where the high gain antenna failed to deploy fully, reducing the capacity of the downlink quite considerably. Engineers determined that a few specific arms of the folded antenna had got stuck and devised shaking operations to try to free them. It's possible that with a proper photograph of the thing, other information might have been available, but instead all we had were artists impressions of the problem (this looks like something done much later).


      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        It's not just the cameras

        Generally the very small and cheap camera's really don't have the resolution and dynamic range to tell you anything useful in the "either too bright too see anything unless you have a tiny aperture and super short exposure time, or so dark you won't see anything" environment of space. On top of that it's not just the camera, it's cables to connect them, interface boards to connect them to the computers and whatever peripherals (software and hardware) needed to make them work. All of which add mass and power requirements to the probe, all of which add components that can complicate shaker tests, all of which add components that can fail in all kinds of interesting ways. We're slowly seeing more and more engineering camera's rolled out on spacecraft, but they're always going to be very strategically and sparingly placed and spacecraft designers are going to be very hesitant to add too many of them. Certainly to get a camera on a problem like this you'd probably need it to be either absolutely tiny and moving with the radar antenna setup or on some sort of complicated movable contraption to position the camera somewhere it can see anything. Both of which will very conservatively estimated add several years worth of engineering effort to a spacecraft just for the luxury of maybe, potentially having some extra pictures if something unexpected fails, but nearly entirely useless for the mission science if everything goes as planned.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: It's not just the cameras

          Fair enough (I'm absolutely not a rocket surgeon), but obviously they've managed to get one sorted for Juice so it's not an insurmountable problem :-)


      2. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        What they need

        is a miniature Canadarm with a camera. And a tiny hammer.

        I'm not even joking.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Then you need a second one to hit the first one when it gets stuck.

    4. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Nah. Needs an R2 unit.

  9. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Just ...

    ... turn it upside-down and shake it. The pin is apt to fall right out.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just ...

        An appropriate 'spin' about the 'correct' axis will provide a gravity substitute !!!

        Next problem how to spin and unspin !!!


      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Just ...

        Or a bit of rocket thrust to create some acceleration force. Which is basically the plan. From the article:

        "Mission control is planning to execute an engine burn and rotate Juice in a bid to jostle its components around and warm up RIME to encourage the pin to shake loose. "

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