On the 4th of July fireworks lit up the night skies at Monrovia California, home to the Deep Space Network (DSN) Operations and Maintenance Facility. The Juno spacecraft, after traveling 1.7 billion miles, reached its destination and entered into a Polar orbit around Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. At approximately 8:18 p.m. Pacific Daylight Saving Time the Juno spacecraft flawlessly performed its Jupiter Orbit Insertion (JOI) maneuver. The spacecraft fired its main engine to slowdown it’s velocity by 1212.4 mph over a 35 minute period to allow the gravitational force of Jupiter to capture the spacecraft.
Metis employees were there at the prime contractor Harris Corporation’s Monrovia Facility’s Remote Operations Center (ROC) for this historic first ever event of maneuvering a spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter, an event they had planned, prepared, and rehearsed for months. This was no small task by any means, the event was planned so that the DSN had two overlapping Deep Space Communications Complexes, one at Goldstone, California with five Deep Space Stations and one at Canberra Australia with four Deep Space Stations to provide maximum redundant coverage for approximately 4 hours.
Juno’s primary goal is to improve our understanding of Jupiter’s formation and evolution. The spacecraft will investigate the planet’s origins, interior structure, deep atmosphere and magnetosphere. Juno’s study of Jupiter will help us to understand the history of our own solar system and provide new insight into how planetary systems form and develop in our galaxy and beyond. The spacecraft’s arrival at Jupiter last month will begin 20 months of science operations in which Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only about 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) from the cloud tops at closest approach. Track mission progress at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/main/index.html