The launch of the Juno Spacecraft to Jupiter saw a large turnout of guests who had come to watch the launch. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/awaltersphoto.com
CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. – The recent launch of the Juno Spacecraft to the planet Jupiter may hint that things will not be quite as bad along Florida’s Space Coast in terms of space tourism as originally predicted. Large numbers of guests watched the launch from the nearby Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and the ‘Tweetup’ that NASA held had more attendees than members of the media that attended the launch.
The Visitor Complex saw guest levels on par with earlier shuttle missions. The attendance numbers were up 100 percent from the same time last year (exact figures were not provided for proprietary reasons).
Meanwhile at the Kennedy Space Center press site, the NASA ‘Tweetup’ saw more attendees, 150, than actual members of the press, 81. Moreover attendees hailed from 28 different states as well as Canada, Norway, Spain and other foreign destinations.
NASA launched the Juno Spacecraft, bound for the planet Jupiter at 12:25 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 41. The spacecraft was launched atop an Atlas V rocket (551 configuration). The launch had been scheduled to occur earlier – but slipped due to a technical issue that needed to be resolved as well as a wayward boat which had drifted to close to the launch pad.
Juno will be placed into polar orbit around Jupiter in order to provide a better understanding of the planet’s magnetic field, composition and its polar magnetosphere. Some of the questions that it is hoped that Juno can answer are how the planet formed, the amount of water that the deep atmosphere (Jupiter is essentially comprised entirely of gas) and whether or not the planet has a rocky core.
It will take the spacecraft about five years to reach Jupiter. If all goes according to plan it should arrive at the giant planet in July of 2016. Once there, the probe will orbit the planet about once a year. Reaching the planet is not possible with the speeds it will obtain on-orbit. As such, it is required that the probe conduct a flyby of Earth a full two years after it leaves the ground.
The Atlas V rocket that was used for this mission (AV-029) is powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen engines that will light first. About four seconds after the main engines fire up, five strap-on solid rocket boosters (SRB) will ignite and remain lit for close to a minute and a half.