Juno spacecraft resumes full flight operations on its way to Jupiter

The spacecraft went into safe mode during its Earth flyby last week.
By | Published: October 14, 2013 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Juno spacecraft enroute to Jupiter
On October 9, 2013, the Juno spacecraft will fly past Earth for a gravity-assist boost that will slingshot the probe onward to Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which is on its way to Jupiter, resumed full flight operations earlier Friday. The spacecraft had entered safe mode during its flyby of Earth on October 9. The safe mode did not impact the spacecraft’s trajectory one smidgeon. This flyby provided the necessary gravity boost to accurately slingshot the probe toward Jupiter, where it will arrive July 4, 2016.

The spacecraft exited safe mode at 5:12 p.m. EDT October 11. The spacecraft is currently operating nominally, and all systems are fully functional.

On October 9, Juno passed within 350 miles (560 kilometers) of the ocean just off the tip of South Africa at 3:21 p.m. EDT. Soon after closest approach, a signal was received by the European Space Agency’s 15-meter antenna just north of Perth, Australia, indicating the spacecraft initiated an automated fault-protection action called “safe mode.”

Safe mode is a state that the spacecraft may enter if its onboard computer perceives conditions on the spacecraft are not as expected. On board Juno, the safe mode turned off instruments and a few non-critical spacecraft components and pointed the spacecraft toward the Sun to ensure the solar arrays received power. The spacecraft acted as expected during the transition and while in safe mode.

The Juno science team is continuing to analyze data acquired by the spacecraft’s science instruments during the flyby. Most data and images were downlinked prior to the safe mode event.

The Juno spacecraft is named for the mythological wife of the god Jupiter, who used her special powers to discover the secrets Jupiter was hiding behind cloud cover. Much like its namesake, the spacecraft will probe the mysteries beneath the planet’s visible surface to understand its structure and history.