The solar-powered NASA spacecraft Juno has reached Jupiter after a nearly five-year journey, using regular bursts of deep-space flare to mark a remarkable feat of Fourth of July flair.
Juno was launched Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, aboard an Atlas V rocket built for NASA by Lockheed Martin. The U.S. space agency said its arrival at Jupiter on Independence Day was just a nice patriotic coincidence.
To maintain thrust during its marathon journey to the most massive planet in the solar system, Juno used a bi-propellant main engine manufactured in Westcott, England, by AMPAC-ISP, a subsidiary of Las Vegas-based American Pacific Corp. AMPAC-ISP specializes in the development and manufacture in-space propulsion systems.
Juno’s progress is being monitored by mission teams at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Lockheed Martin’s space facility in Denver.
Prior to entering Jupiter’s orbit just before 9 p.m. PDT on July 4, Juno performed an orbit insertion maneuver involving a 35-minute burn of its main engine. The procedure was designed to slow the spacecraft by 1,212 miles per hour.
Now captured in the gaseous planet’s orbit, Juno will circle Jupiter 37 times in 20 months, marking the first time a spacecraft will orbit its poles. Scientists hope the mission will help unravel mysteries about the planet’s core, composition and magnetic fields.
Juno is named for the wife of the mythical Roman god Jupiter. The total cost of the Juno mission is expected to reach approximately $1.1 billion.