Juno weighs in at 8000 pounds and is a probe that has the mission of circling Jupiter while collecting data such as gravitational, about the polar magnetosphere field, and of course about Jupiter’s atmosphere. Launched in August of 2011, there was not available a rocket that could power it for the long trip to Jupiter. To solve this challenge NASA decided to incorporate the slingshot maneuver into Juno’s flight plan and give a gravity assist.
On Wednesday the probe will zip by the Earth a mere 350 miles above the Earth’s surface the gravity assist boosting Juno’s speed by a 16,330 mph on its way to Jupiter and should arrive at the Jovian system in 2016 – July 4th is the prediction.
Juno is carrying a plaque provided by the Italian Space Agency and dedicated to Jupiter. Depicted is Galileo accompanied by some text Galileo had written, observations of what we know now as the Galilean moons. Also on board are three LEGO figurines: Galileo, the Roman god Jupiter, and his wife Juno. LEGO made these figures out of aluminum so that they might endure the extreme conditions of space flight. The figurines are very detailed as LEGO gave Jupiter a lightning bolt, Juno a magnifying glass and Galileo a telescope. (Should alien life encounter it, they will be very concerned.)
The fly-by occurs at a time when the Federal government is shut down and 97% of NASA employees are furloughed. However Juno team members say that the situation isn’t causing much difficulty as on-going missions are exempted. And rightly so; with a price tag of 1.1 billion it would be a colossal waste if a couple of weeks were to determine a five year mission’s demise.
More specifics about Juno:
Juno boosts solar panels and is the first mission to Jupiter to use them. Only 4% as much sunlight as received on Earth will be felt by Juno, but advances in solar cell technology have made their use possible. –But don’t worry, NASA redundancy, there will also be two 55 amp-hour lithium ion batteries. (The batteries are able to withstand the radiation environment of Jupiter.)
Juno has at least three different communications tone fault signaling for cruise mode operations, X-band and Ka-band doppler tracking and auto ranging.
Finally, Juno’s propulsion systems. Juno uses a bipropellant Leros-1b main engine from the UK. It utilizes hydrazine & nitrogen tetroxide for a trust of 645 newtons. However, this is used for major burns. Juno also has a system consisting of twelve jets that are mounted on four rocket engine modules.
Juno, Jupiter’s wife, is reported in Roman mythology as having a mischievous husband who would pull a veil of clouds to hide his acts from his wife. Juno the probe is hoped to peel back the clouds of Jupiter and give our scientists a glimpse through the use of science.