Countdown to NASAs Juno Spacecraft Arrival at Jupiter

On 4th July 2016 (5th July 2016 09:05 AM IST), NASA’s Juno spacecraft is expected to arrive at planet Jupiter. Juno has been travelling since its launch on August 5, 2011 for 5 years. The space craft measures 20 meters in diameter (with its solar panel open) and is about 4.5 m high. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011. Juno will be the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, following the Galileo probe which orbited from 1995–2003. In July 2016, the spacecraft will perform an orbit insertion burn to slow the spacecraft enough to allow capture. It will do two 53-day orbits before performing another burn on 19 October that will bring it into a 14-day polar orbit. The spacecraft is powered by solar arrays, commonly used by satellites orbiting Earth and working in the inner Solar System. For Juno, three solar array wings, the largest ever deployed on a planetary probe, will play an integral role in stabilizing the spacecraft and generating power

Mission Timeline

  • Launch – August 5, 2011
  • Deep Space Maneuvers – August/September 2012
     – August/September 2012
  • Earth flyby gravity assist – October 2013
  • Jupiter arrival – July 2016
  • Spacecraft will orbit Jupiter for 20 months (37 orbits)
  • End of mission (deorbit into Jupiter) – February 2018

The Name Juno

The spacecraft’s name comes from the name of the goddess Juno, portrayed in Greco-Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, but his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and see Jupiter’s true nature.

Scientific Objectives
The spacecraft is to be placed in a polar orbit to study Jupiter’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere. Once at Jupiter, Juno will have to slow down to be captured by Jupiter’s gravity. Juno will orbit Jupiter in an elliptical orbit for and complete 37 orbits in 20 months in order to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Juno will improve our understanding of the solar system’s beginnings by revealing the origin and evolution of Jupiter. Specifically, Juno will…

  • Determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which helps determine which planet formation theory is correct (or if new theories are needed)
  • Look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties
  • Map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet’s deep structure
  • Explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.
    The Juno mission is the second spacecraft designed under NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The first is the Pluto New Horizons mission, which flew by the dwarf planet in July 2015 after a nine-and-a-half-year flight. 

Check out Juno Space Craft Official Website

10th Spacecraft to Study Jupiter at Close Range

Juno spacecraft will become the 10th spacecraft to study Jupiter from close range. Other spacecrafts:

  • Pioneer 10 (1973)
  • Pioneer 11 (1974)
  • Voyager 1 (1979)
  • Voyager 2 (1979)
  • Ulysses (1992)
  • Galileo Probe and Orbiter (1995-2003)
  • Cassini (2000)
  • New Horizons (2007)

Some activities related to NASA Juno mission

  • Download and set Juno Wallpaper Click here
  • Make a Paper Model of Juno Space Craft (age 11 and up) Click here
  • Participate in JunoCAM: Vote on what pictures you want Juno to take and submit images of Jupiter taken with your own telescope to help scientists. Click here

Compiled by: Mila Mitra, Scientific Officer Head, Research and Publications | SPACE
Vikrant Narang, Educator | SPACE

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