Juno Spacecraft Doing Well

Posted by Jack

As of December 15, 2014, Juno is approximately 350 million miles (565 million kilometers) from Earth. The one-way radio signal travel time between Earth and Juno is currently about 31.4 minutes. Juno is traveling at a velocity of approximately 28,243 miles per hour (12.62 kilometers per second) relative to the sun, and 43,236 miles per hour (19.33 kilometers per second) relative to Earth. Juno has now travelled 1.49 billion miles (2.40 billion kilometers, or 16.05 AU) since launch, and has another 267 million miles (430 million kilometers or 2.88 AU) before entering Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016. The Juno spacecraft remains in excellent health and is operating nominally.

Juno’s three giant solar panels – each one about 9 feet x 29 feet (2.7 meters x 8.9 meters) – will generate about 450 Watts of electricity at Jupiter, or enough power for five light bulbs.

Juno’s scientific payload includes:

•A gravity/radio science system (Gravity Science)
•A six-wavelength microwave radiometer for atmospheric sounding and composition (MWR)
•A vector magnetometer (MAG)
•Plasma and energetic particle detectors (JADE and JEDI)
•A radio/plasma wave experiment (Waves)
•An ultraviolet imager/spectrometer (UVS)
•An infrared imager/spectrometer (JIRAM)
The spacecraft will also carry a color camera, called JunoCam, to provide the public with the first detailed glimpse of Jupiter’s poles.

Juno will avoid Jupiter’s highest radiation regions by approaching over the north, dropping to an altitude below the planet’s radiation belts – which are analogous to Earth’s Van Allen belts, but far more deadly – and then exiting over the south. To protect sensitive spacecraft electronics, Juno will carry the first radiation shielded electronics vault, a critical feature for enabling sustained exploration in such a heavy radiation environment. This feature of the mission is relevant to NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration, which addresses the need for protection against harsh radiation in space environments beyond the safety of low-Earth orbit.

Farthest travelled spacecraft: The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Continuing on their more-than-37-year journey since their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the sun than Pluto. In August 2012, Voyager 1 made the historic entry into interstellar space, the region between stars, filled with material ejected by the death of nearby stars millions of years ago. Scientists hope to learn more about this region when Voyager 2, in the “heliosheath” — the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar medium — also reaches interstellar space. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network, or DSN.

The primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The adventurers’ current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain. And beyond.

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