Juno Hours Away from One Shot at Orbit

posted: 07/04/16
by: Eileen Marable
Juno with Engine

According to NASA, Juno is just a few hours away from the critical "Jupiter Orbit Insertion" or JOI. To get the probe into a 53.5 day orbit around the planet, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will be executing the firing of a rocket motor (a "burn") to slow the spacecraft enough to enter its polar orbit.

JOI is a critical event. If any part of the burn sequence goes wrong and Juno is not captured into orbit at its closest approach, there will be no science mission.

As of 9:03 p.m. EDT (6:03 p.m. PDT Juno will be only 100,000 miles (161,000 kilometers) away from Jupiter. At 11:18 p.m. EDT (8:18 p.m. PDT), JOI will begin as Juno fires its main engine. This will initiate a 35-minute burn to slow the velocity of the spacecraft so it can be captures by Jupiter's gravity.

According to NASA's Mission Update,

"As planned, we are deep in the gravity well of Jupiter and accelerating," said Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Even after we begin firing our rocket motor, Jupiter will continue to pull us, making us go faster and faster until we reach the time of closest approach. The trick is, by the end of our burn, we will slow down just enough to get into the orbit we want."

The JPL team has created fail-safes in order to increase the chances of a successful burn and insertion. Certain features of the on-board computer's fault protection will be disabled so there is less of a chance the computer would restart or experience some other kind of anomaly that would interrupt the 35-minute engine burn.

Juno will travel around Jupiter 37 times over the 53.5 day orbit, with de-orbit into the planet at the end of the last orbit.

Join us watching events at JPL LIVE via NASA TV right here.

Return to Science Channel tomorrow at 9 p.m. for Mission Jupiter, an in-depth exploration of the mission, from preparation to a look at orbital insertion.
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