Overall, NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit of Jupiter is in good health and good condition as the probe heads toward its two-Earth year anniversary in orbit of the giant planet this July. The spacecraft’s good health bodes well in terms of NASA’s upcoming decision of whether to end the mission this summer or extend it, a decision that is largely understood to be related to how the spacecraft holds up to Jupiter’s intense radiation field.
Following a flawless launch and cruise to Jupiter, the Juno spacecraft entered orbit of the gas giant on 4 July 2016, entering a 53 day checkout orbit. Juno was supposed to complete two of these checkout orbits before performing an engine burn to reduce the spacecraft’s orbital period and apojove (farthest point in the craft’s orbit of Jupiter) to its planned 14 day science orbit.
This engine burn, called the Period Reduction Maneuver, was planned for 18 October 2016. However, during the second 53 day checkout orbit and just four days prior to the Period Reduction Maneuver as NASA worked through tests of Juno’s primary engine, engineers saw something in the data that gave them cause for concern.
At the time, Rick Nybakken, ...