Juno spacecraft in orbit around mighty Jupiter

July 7th, 2016, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT

 

After an almost five-year journey to the solar system’s largest planet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth on 5 July at 8:53 am (SA time).

Artist impression of the Juno burn

Artist’s impression of the Juno burn.

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said the Juno NASA mission went boldly where no spacecraft has gone before. Confirmation of a successful orbit insertion was received from Juno tracking data monitored from the navigation facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as well as at the Lockheed Martin Juno operations centre in Littleton, Colorado. The telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s deep-space network antennas in Goldstone, California, and Canberra, Australia.

“This is the one time I don’t mind being stuck in a windowless room on the night of 4 July,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “The mission team did great. The spacecraft did great. We are looking great. It’s a great day.”

Preplanned events leading up to the orbital insertion engine burn included changing the spacecraft’s attitude to point the main engine in the desired direction and then increasing the spacecraft’s rotation rate from 2 to 5 RPM to help stabilise it.

The burn of Juno’s 645-Newton Leros-1b main engine began on time at 11:18 p.m. (EDT), decreasing the spacecraft’s velocity by 542 m per second and allowing Juno to be captured in orbit around Jupiter. Soon after the burn was completed, Juno turned so that the sun’s rays could once again reach the 18 698 individual solar cells that give Juno its energy.

Jupitor

Jupiter

“The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 2,72-billion miles on the odometer,” said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL. “Jupiter orbit insertion was a big step and the most challenging remaining in our mission plan, but there are others that have to occur before we can give the science team the mission they are looking for.”

Over the next few months, Juno’s mission and science teams will perform final testing on the spacecraft’s subsystems, final calibration of science instruments and some science collection. “The official science collection phase begins in October, but we’ve figured out a way to collect data a lot earlier than that,” said Bolton. “Which when you’re talking about the single biggest planetary body in the solar system is a really good thing. There is a lot to see and do here.”

Juno’s principal goal is to understand the origin and evolution of Jupiter. With its suite of nine science instruments, Juno will investigate the existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep-atmosphere, and observe the planet’s auroras. The mission also will let scientists take a giant step forward in our understanding of how giant planets form and the role these titans played in putting together the rest of the solar system. As our primary example of a giant planet, Jupiter also can provide critical knowledge for understanding the planetary systems being discovered around other stars.

The Juno spacecraft launched on 5 August 2011 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Related Articles

  • Advancing GIS in tertiary education in a time of budget cuts
  • Make your data actionable from edge to cloud
  • Light quality metrics explained
  • Transforming condition monitoring of rotating machines
  • Hoist speed controller and braking