News

07.26.11

NASA's Jupiter-Bound Juno Spacecraft Mated to its Rocket

Juno Mission to Jupiter

Juno Mission to Jupiter (2010 Artist's Concept)Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach.
 
Juno's primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter's formation and evolution. The spacecraft will spend a year investigating the planet's origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere. Juno's study of Jupiter will help us to understand the history of our own solar system and provide new insight into how planetary systems form and develop in our galaxy and beyond.
 
Juno's principal investigator is Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, Colo., is building the spacecraft. The Italian Space Agency, Rome, is contributing an infrared spectrometer instrument and a portion of the radio science experiment.

Credit: NASA/JPL
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's Juno spacecraft completed its last significant terrestrial journey today, July 27, with a 15-mile (25-kilometer) trip from Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Fla., to its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The solar-powered, Jupiter-bound spacecraft was secured into place on top of its rocket at 10:42 a.m. EDT (7:42 a.m. PDT).

Juno will arrive at Jupiter in July 2016 and orbit its poles 33 times to learn more about the gas giant's interior, atmosphere and aurora.

"We're about to start our journey to Jupiter to unlock the secrets of the early solar system," said Scott Bolton, the mission's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "After eight years of development, the spacecraft is ready for its important mission."

Now that the Juno payload is atop the most powerful Atlas rocket ever made -- the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 -- a final flurry of checks and tests can begin and confirm that all is go for launch. The final series of checks begins Wednesday with an on-pad functional test. The test is designed to confirm that the spacecraft is healthy after the fueling, encapsulation and transport operations.
"The on-pad functional test is the first of seven tests and reviews that Juno and its flight team will undergo during the spacecraft's last 10 days on Earth," said Jan Chodas, Juno's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "There are a number of remaining pre-launch activities that we still need to focus on, but the team is really excited that the final days of preparation, which we've been anticipating for years, are finally here. We are ready to go."

The launch period for Juno opens Aug. 5, 2011, and extends through Aug. 26. For an Aug. 5 liftoff, the launch window opens at 11:34 a.m. EDT (8:34 a.m. PDT) and remains open through 12:43 p.m. EDT (9:43 a.m. PDT).

JPL manages the Juno mission for principal investigator Scott Bolton. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the spacecraft. Launch management for the mission is the responsibility of NASA's Launch Services Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about Juno is online at http://www.nasa.gov/juno

Members of the media, please contact:

D.C. Agle
Juno Media Relations Representative
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

(818) 393-9011
Dwayne Brown
NASA Public Affairs Officer
NASA Headquarters

(202) 358-1726

Where is Juno now?

Visualize Juno’s journey through space and get up-to-date data sets using NASA's Eyes on the Solar System 3D interactive.