Feeds

NASA's Juno roars off to Jupiter

Mighty rocket lifts gas giant mission

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA's Juno spacecraft blasted off this afternoon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at the beginning of its five-year journey to Jupiter.

The launch of Juno this afternoon. Pic: NASA TVThe 4-ton Juno rose heavenwards at 16:25 GMT atop a bloody big United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket, boasting a quintet of solid booster strap-ons. Despite this extra lifting grunt, Juno will still require a flyby of Earth to slingshot it on its way.

Juno will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times, grabbing stills images for the viewing pleasure of Earthlings, while mapping the planet's magnetic field and peering beneath its turbulent atmosphere in search of a possible solid core.

Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator, said of the mission: "The special thing about Juno is we're really looking at one of the first steps, the earliest time in our solar system's history. Right after the sun formed, what happened that allowed the planets to form and why are the planets a slightly different composition than the Sun?"

Juno relies on solar panels for its power, and at such a disance from the Sun, needs a lot of panel area to feed its systems. NASA explains: "Three solar panels extend outward from Juno's hexagonal body, giving the overall spacecraft a span of more than 66 feet (20 metres). The solar panels will remain in sunlight continuously from launch through end of mission, except for a few minutes during the Earth flyby."

Artist's impression of Juno at Jupiter. Pic: NASA

It adds: "The mission's power needs are modest, with science instruments requiring full power for only about six hours out of each 11-day orbit (during the period near closest approach to the planet). With a mission design that avoids any eclipses by Jupiter, minimizes damaging radiation exposure and allows all science measurements to be taken with the solar panels facing the sun, solar power is a perfect fit for Juno."

Despite an orbital trajectory which will dodge Jupiter's radiation belts – described as "analogous to Earth's Van Allen belts, but far more deadly" – Juno will rely on a "radiation shielded electronics vault" to keep vital systems safe from exposure.

NASA notes: "This feature of the mission is relevant to NASA's Vision for Space Exploration, which addresses the need for protection against harsh radiation in space environments beyond the safety of low-Earth orbit." ®

Bootnote

Juno's instrument package comprises:

  • a gravity/radio science system;
  • a six-wavelength microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition;
  • a vector magnetometer;
  • plasma and energetic particle detectors;
  • a radio/plasma wave experiment;
  • an ultraviolet imager/spectrometer; and
  • an infrared imager/spectrometer.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?