This question got me thinking - what types of activities are routinely performed when a probe is in a long transit (like Juno, for example)? What does the staffing typically look like? Does one (or a few) teams manage multiple spacecraft, or does each craft have it's own team?

The amount of man-hours required during the transit is probably very low. Is there even a need for 24-hour monitoring?

  • $\begingroup$ Usually, the probe isn't even in communication with the Earth 24/7. If you watched the DSN Now website while Juno was traveling, you would have noticed that there were definitely times when Juno was was not in contact with us. $\endgroup$ – Phiteros Jul 6 '16 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Phiteros gee, is it possible to get some kind of log or history for what's displayed on DSN Now? It doesn't have to be detailed, but some kind of histogram or frequency plot of exactly what you are describing would be pretty interesting. I'll go take a look, but I'm not familiar with the site at all. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 6 '16 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh There is not one that is available on the site itself. It is possible that someone has made such a tool, but I doubt it. It would actually be really interesting to see that, but I do not have the knowledge necessary to create it. I just keep a tab open and check it every once in a while when I'm interested. On Monday, every single dish at Goldstone was being used to communicate with Juno. $\endgroup$ – Phiteros Jul 6 '16 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Phiteros wow! If you happened to have made a screen shot, please post it somehow. Anyway, thanks for that information - I wish I'd thought of doing that. Ok next historic arrival of a deep space probe is... hmmm,... :) oh well! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 6 '16 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I'll post the picture in chat $\endgroup$ – Phiteros Jul 8 '16 at 1:01

Juno was placed in hibernation (https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/07/nasa-junos-arrival-jupiter/) during its trip so contact would have been sporadic.

New Horizons used a similar approach:

Heading into its first long hibernation cycle, New Horizons sent beacons once a month, requiring virtually no support for most of the time, decreasing time needed on the Deep Space Network and personnel at Mission Control. For two months each year, New Horizons was woken up to undergo a complete check of its systems and instruments.

The beacon was a very simple message: all ok/small problems/big problems. So NH would have needed one block of DSN time per month. IIRC a block of 8 hours is standard, maybe a smaller slice suffices for these beacons.


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