NASA’s Lockheed Martin built Juno Spacecraft successfully entered an elliptical polar orbit around Jupiter on Monday.
The 12 foot wide spaceship traveled through 1.7 billion miles of space in a five year journey to reach the solar system’s largest planet.
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Jupiter is the solar system’s largest planet, and is more than two-and-a-half times as massive as all of the other planets combined.
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The spacecraft’s flight operations were controlled by a joint team at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Support Area near Denver, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The Juno spacecraft was launched on August 5, 2011, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Four days ago, the spacecraft was put into autopilot for the orbit insertion. On Monday, final commands fired the large main engine for a 35-minute burn slowing the spacecraft, which was then captured by Jupiter’s massive gravity and placed into a large elliptical polar orbit. Initially, the orbit is 53 days long, but will be reduced to 14 days long in following months for science observations.
Juno will conduct an in-depth study, with primary goal of improving the understanding of the formation and evolution of the planet and solar system. Over the next 20 months, mission scientists will investigate the planet’s origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere.
Guy Beutelschies, director of Interplanetary Missions at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said, “Since launch, Juno has operated exceptionally well, and the flawless orbit insertion is a testament to everyone working on Juno and their focus on getting this amazing spacecraft to its destination. NASA now has a science laboratory orbiting Jupiter.”
Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
NASA’s Juno probe enters near-perfect orbit around Jupiter:
New Scientist YouTube video:
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