Monday, August 8, 2011

Juno Lifts Off for Jupiter

Juno / Atlas V on pad LC-41.

On Friday August 5, NASA launched a new space probe towards Jupiter. Juno's mission is to continue our exploration of the gas giant with an aim towards understand Jupiter's possible origins and evolution.

Liftoff! Juno is on its way!

Juno is not intended to be a long-term observer of Jupiter. It's journey is expected to be five years, after which it will orbit the giant planet 33 times in a circumpolar orbit. Its instruments will probe the cloud structure and weather patterns, as well as probe the planet core and magnetic fields.

Headed towards space.

The blastoff was delayed for some time due to a ground equipment helium leak, and the inadvertent straying of a civilian boat into the restricted waters near the launch site. Once the all-clear was given, the Atlas V performed well and lifted the payload into space. The Juno craft separated from the second stage 53 minutes after blastoff.

View of the launch site from the second stage camera.

Solid Rocket boosters separate.

NASA animation of second stage propelling Juno into a trajectory to Jupiter.

Another interesting look at the Atlas V (top picture) helps us visualize a possible future for NASA. Boeing has decided to use the Atlas V launch vehicle for its tests of its CST-100 crew capsule, now in development. We'll have more coverage on this development shortly.

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