Countdown to Jupiter: Juno just seven days from orbit

Rendezvous draws nigh

Artist's impression of Juno and Jupiter. Pic: NASA
Image: NASA

Juno is on the seven-day countdown to entering Jovian orbit, and it's going to be a wild ride.

On May 31, the probe crossed the boundary between solar gravity and Jupiter's.

That also marked the start of manoeuvering towards an orbit that's going to take it within 5,000 km of the planet's cloud tops for 37 flybys.

As space probes go, Juno is a hefty beast indeed. Much of its roughly 3,640 kg (8,000 pound) weight is shielding to protect the probe from the radiation of the planet's much-more-intense version of Earth's Van Allen belts.

It's one of the toughest radiation environments in the solar system (Vulture South supposes things are more unpleasant at a similar distance from the Sun).

The shielding around the probe's flight computer alone weighs in at more than 170 kg.

NASA says the excitement will start with a 35-minute burn of its main engine for orbital insertion. That burn will lop 542 metres per second off the probe's velocity.

After that, the science will begin, with the probe tasked to gather information about Jupiter's structure, its atmosphere, and its magnetosphere.

It will remain in orbit until February 2018, when it will get dropped onto the planet. ®

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