NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to Kick into Planned Autopilot for July 4 Jupiter Burn

At about 12:15 pm PDT today (3:15 p.m. EDT), mission controllers will transmit command product “ji4040” into deep space, to transition the solar-powered Juno spacecraft into autopilot. It will take nearly 48 minutes for the signal to cover the 534-million-mile (860-million-kilometer) distance between the Deep Space Network Antenna in Goldstone, California, to the Juno spacecraft. While sequence ji4040 is only one of four command products sent up to the spacecraft that day, it holds a special place in the hearts of the Juno mission team.

“Ji4040 contains the command that starts the Jupiter Orbit insertion sequence,” said Ed Hirst, mission manager of Juno from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “As soon as it initiates — which should be in less than a second — Juno will send us data that the command sequence has started.”

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in July, 2016 to study our solar system’s largest planet. From a unique polar orbit, 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.

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.

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft approaching Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When the sequence kicks in, the spacecraft will begin running the software program tailored to carry the solar-powered, basketball court-sized spacecraft through the 35-minute burn that will place it in orbit around Jupiter.

“After the sequence executes, Juno is on autopilot,” said Hirst. “But that doesn’t mean we get to go home. We are monitoring the spacecraft’s activities 24/7 and will do so until well after we are in orbit.”

Also today, NASA announced a collaboration with Apple that will serve to enhance the agency’s efforts to inform and excite the public about dramatic missions of exploration like Juno. “Destination: Juno” is a synergy between two seemingly disparate worlds: popular music and interplanetary exploration. The works resulting from this collaboration showcase exploratory sounds from artists who have been inspired by Juno and other NASA missions, including Brad Paisley, Corinne Bailey Rae, GZA, Jim James featuring Lydia Tyrell, QUIÑ, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, Weezer and Zoé.

Apple has captured moments in this journey with a behind-the-scenes documentary spearheaded by the Juno mission’s principal investigator, Scott Bolton, and scored by Academy Award winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The content is available on various Apple platforms. Other Juno-related content, including educational opportunities with Bill Nye on and an “Interactive Guide to NASA’s Juno Mission,” will roll out over the course of a year and throughout the length of the Juno mission.

The Juno spacecraft launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

Juno Specs

Dimensions: 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) high, 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) in diameter.
Solar Arrays: length of each solar array 29.5 feet (9 meters) by 8.7 feet (2.65 meters).
Total surface area of solar arrays: more than 650 feet (60 meters ) squared.
Total number of individual solar cells: 18,698.
Total power output (Earth distance from sun): approximately 14 kilowatts; (Jupiter distance from
sun): approximately 500 watts.

Weight: 7,992 pounds (3,625 kilograms) total at launch, consisting of 3,513 pounds (1,593
kilograms) of spacecraft, 2,821 pounds (1,280 kilograms) of fuel and 1,658 pounds (752
kilograms) of oxidizer.


Jupiter arrival: July 4, 2016
The Jupiter Orbit Insertion (JOI) burn begins at 8:18 p.m. PDT (Earth Receive Time). The burn
is scheduled to end at 8:53 p.m. PDT (Earth Receive Time)
One-way speed-of-light time from Jupiter to Earth on July 4, 2016: 48 minutes, 19 seconds
Distance of Jupiter to Earth at time of Jupiter orbit insertion: 540 million miles (869 million
Total distance traveled, launch to Jupiter orbit insertion: 1,740 million miles (2,800 million
End of mission (deorbit): February 20, 2018
Distance traveled in orbit around Jupiter: 348 million miles (560 million kilometers)
Total distance, launch through Jupiter impact: 2,106 million miles (3,390 million kilometers)

The Juno mission investment is $1.13 billion in total. This cost includes spacecraft
development, science instruments, launch services, mission operations, science data
processing and relay support for 78 months.

Juno Mission of Many Firsts:

• First space mission to operate a solar-powered spacecraft at Jupiter
• Farthest solar powered spacecraft from Earth
• First space mission to orbit an outer-planet from pole to pole
• First space mission to fly as close as 2,600 miles to Jupiter’s cloud tops
• First mission to be designed to operate in the heart of Jupiter’s radiation belts
• First mission to carry a titanium radiation vault to protect the spacecraft’s most sensitive instruments from a planet’s intense belts of radiation
• First spacecraft to fly 3D-printed titanium parts (Waveguide brackets)
• Will be the fastest spacecraft to enter orbit around a planet, at 130,000 mph (129,518 mph/57.9 km/s) relative to Earth
• Will take the highest-resolution images of Jupiter in history