NASA’s Juno spacecraft set to refine orbit around Jupiter

Washington: NASA has scheduled a short trajectory correction manoeuvre on July 13 to refine the Juno spacecraft’s orbit around Jupiter. Juno successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn on July 5, after a five-year journey to the king of planets.

The engineers and scientists working on NASA’s Juno mission have been busying themselves, getting their newly arrived Jupiter orbiter ready for operations around the largest planetary inhabitant in the solar system. The spacecraft returned to high-rate communications on July 5 and powered up five science instruments on July 6.

As per the mission plan, the remaining science instruments will be powered up before the end of the month. Juno’s science instruments had been turned off in the days leading up to Jupiter orbit insertion.

“Prior to launch five years ago we planned a date and time for the Jupiter orbit insertion burn and the team nailed it,” said Rick Nybakken, project manager for Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US. “We are in our planned 53.4 day orbit. Now we are focusing on preparing for our fourth and final main engine burn, which will put us in our 14-day science orbit on October 19,” said Nybakken.

The next time Juno’s orbit carries it close by the planet will be on August 27. The flyby is expected to provide some preliminary science data.

“We had to turn all our beautiful instruments off to help ensure a successful Jupiter orbit insertion on July 4,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute. “But next time around we will have our eyes and ears open. You can expect us to release some information about our findings around September 1,” The Juno spacecraft was launched on August 5 in the year 2011, from Florida.

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