NASA’s Juno Probe heads back towards Jupiter


On Sunday subsequent to an extremely elliptical pathway around Jupiter on July 4, NASA's Juno spacecraft lastly attained the high-point of its initial 53.4-day orbit, setting up an extended plunge back toward its quarry and an Aug. 27 close meet with all of its instruments up and running. Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has also further conveyed that, we're very satisfied about the state of the spacecraft and the state of the instruments. On Sunday Juno passed within a few thousand miles of Jupiter's cloud tops throughout the Jupiter orbit placing JOI — rocket firing on July 4, at 3:41 p.m. EDT (GMT-4), the spacecraft was expected to turn the corner, passing through the high point of the orbit, or apojove, at a distance of some 5 million miles from the massive planet. On Aug. 27, Juno will pass about 2,600 miles on top of the atmosphere, a point known as perijove 1, previous to heading back out again.

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And this time around, all of its instruments will be turned on and gather data about Jupiter's deep interior, its powerful magnetic field, the radiation environment and the concealed structure of its turbulent atmosphere. During the JOI maneuver, Juno's instruments were twisted off, allowing the spacecraft's flight computer to devote all its capital to carrying out the make-or-break rocket firing deep in Jupiter's magnetic field, which traps and accelerates charged particles from the sun to produce intense radiation. Nybakken has also further conveyed that, even with the flight computer shielded inside a titanium vault, we did see some proof of radiation in the form of single-bit errors in the spaceflight computer. He also further conveyed that, we saw 62 single-bit errors, all of them accurate. Juno came during the orbit insertion maneuver in near flawless fashion. Two days later, engineers began powering up and checking out its suite of science instruments. Nybakken conveyed that, everything is as predictable. On August 27 the instruments "all look actually good, and they're ready for perijove 1, our first pass with instruments. Juno's camera — JunoCam — also was shut down throughout orbit insertion, but it is back in action, taking long-distance shots that will be combined into a so-called "marble movie. Nybakken has also further conveyed that, clearly, a lot of the shots are going to be when Jupiter is the size of a marble, personally, is when we (fly by) the planet and it gets really big.

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"That's what the cameras for, it's for those close-up shots." Juno will fly through two 53-day capture orbits before a critical Oct. 19 rocket firing that will radically inferior the high point of the orbit and put the spacecraft in its planned 14-day science orbit, frequently passing flanked by 2,600 and 4,900 miles above Jupiter's cloud tops. The intended science is optimized for the 14-day science orbit, and the future Aug. 27 encounter will serve as a valuable test run for the spacecraft's instruments and subsystems. "Of course, our expectation is we'll probably get very good science," Nybakken conveyed of the perijove 1 encounter. "In that way, it's icing on the cake. It could very well turn out that this ends up the equal of a full science pass." Nybakken has also further conveyed that, the run in and around Jupiter will give engineers a chance to "evaluate everything top to bottom to make sure we're ready to pull the activate on the fourth main engine burn on Oct. 19. Introduced Aug. 5, 2011, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, the solar-powered Juno picked up a gravitational boost during a close flyby of Earth in October 2013, putting the craft on a trajectory to intersect Jupiter.

Lastly, on July 4, traveling at 130,000 mph relative to Jupiter, Juno's main engine ignited and burned for 35 minutes as planned, sluggishing the craft by about 1,200 mph. That was just sufficient to bend the trajectory into the desired capture orbit. Nybakken has also further conveyed that, radiation has been a major concern from the beginning, and it is expected to limit Juno's useful life to about 20 months, or 37 orbits. As such, "it's something we're watching. He also further conveyed that, we will be characterizing and watching every environmental effect we see on the spacecraft even if it has no impact. Jupiter, Mars and Saturn are currently visible to the unaided eye in the evening sky. Five satellites and two rovers are operating on reddish Mars, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is orbiting Saturn and Juno is about to start collecting science data at Jupiter. For Nybakken, the nightly view puts all the work that went into the mission into outlook.