Juno Mission to Jupiter – Launch

Juno T-Minus 90
Juno Spacecraft Aboard Atlas V 551 at T-Minus 90 Minutes
Image Credit: NASA TV

The countdown for the launch of the Juno mission has reached t-Minus 40 minutes and counting. Fueling is complete and topping is ongoing. Ahead are several built in holds prior to launch at 8:34 AM Phoenix time (1534 UTC).

Weather for Launch
Weather for the Juno Spacecraft Launch
Image Credit: Kennedy Space Center

The weather at Cape Canaveral is perfect.

The countdown has reached T-Minus 35 minutes and counting.

With regard to the Juno spacecraft, it will take five years to reach Jupiter and spend one year doing science exploration.

The primary tasks of the science instruments are:

  • Determine how much water is in Jupiter’s atmosphere, which helps determine which planet formation theory is correct (or if new theories are needed)
  • Look deep into Jupiter’s atmosphere to measure composition, temperature, cloud motions and other properties
  • Map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravity fields, revealing the planet’s deep structure
  • Explore and study Jupiter’s magnetosphere near the planet’s poles, especially the auroras – Jupiter’s northern and southern lights – providing new insights about how the planet’s enormous magnetic force field affects its atmosphere.

Countdown is at T-Minus 25 minutes. All systems are good. Weather is excellent.

T-Minus 20 minutes and counting. Launch in 30 minutes.

T-minus 15 minutes. The weather update from the 45th Space Wing is expected in several minutes.

Systems continue to get checked off. No issues are being worked at the current time.

Booster purge pressure dropped momentarily but is above its lower limit.

T-Minus 10 minutes.

T-Minus 20
Atlas V / Juno at T-Minus 20 minutes
Image Credit: NASA TV

Weather is good. Some high cirrus clouds off shore, but no change from earlier. No shower activity expected.

T-Minus 5 minutes. Centaur O2 level and H2 level are at flight level.

The built in hold at T-Minus 4 minutes and holding for 10 minutes. All participants are switching to communications on launch channel one.

Comm check.

Issue. “Stand by a moment”.

Higher rate of charge cycles on the Centaur helium system. Holding off taking spacecraft power to internal. Discussion of the anomaly on channel six.

The launch will not occur at 8:34 AM as scheduled. An additional five (5) minutes is being added to the hold.

The launch window opens at 1534 UTC and ends at 1643 UTC (8:34 to 9:43 Phoenix time).

A comparison is being made between the current helium cycling on the Centaur, with the cycling observed during the practice full fueling countdown.

It looks like a total of ten (10) minutes have been added to the hold. We still have almost an hour left in the launch window.

An additional set of tests has been ordered, and an additional ten (10) minutes have been added to the hold. Earliest launch time is estimated to be 8:54 AM Phoenix (1554 UTC).

Atlas V / Juno on Hold
Image Credit: NASA TV

On the previous issue of the booster purge pressure drop, the measurement was in the backup system and the primary remained within normal bounds.

Also, the anomaly team has determined the helium charge cycles are within bounds. The leak is with the ground equipment, not with the Centaur helium system.

Range Safety is working to remove a boat that has wandered into the launch area.

A new Launch time of 16:13 Zulu has been set.

The only hangup is waiting for Range Safety to clear the area.

NASA engineering is continuing to discuss the situation, but is not prepared to release the hold at 9:09 AM Phoenix time for the now scheduled 9:13 (1613 UTC) launch.

And now we have a request to extend the hold by five minutes. The new launch time would be 9:18 (1618 UTC).

Engineering has now released the booster for flight. T-minus 4 minutes and holding. The Range Safety folks have cleared the boat from the launch area. A new launch time of 1625 UTC (9:25 AM Phoenix time) has been set. That leaves 18 minutes in the launch window, which expires at 1643 UTC.

Final polling of system teams is ongoing, with ten minutes until launch.

And now, Centaur on internal power. Spacecraft on internal power.

Final polling….Go…Go…Go.

Permission to launch.

T-minus 3 minutes 59 seconds and counting.

T-minus 60 seconds.


Booster separation.

Five minutes into flight. All systems look good.

MECO, stage separation. Centaur has started a six minute 12 second burn.

Centaur first burn complete. There is a 30 minute coast before the second burn.

Atlas Ignition
Image Credit: NASA TV

Atlas Ascent
Image Credit: NASA TV

Atlas Downrange
Image Credit: NASA TV

Atlas Booster Separation
Image Credit: NASA TV


Curiosity Prepares for the Big Show

Schematic of the Mars Curiosity Rover
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-CalTech

The next Mars science rover is taking shape at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Curiosity, technically known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), was named by Clara Ma, who said:

I selected the name Curiosity and I chose that name because I was really curious about space and our planets and our solar system and I wanted to learn more about it.

The Mars Science Laboratory is scheduled to launch between 25 November and 18 December 2011 aboard an Atlas V 541 and land on the Red Planet in August of 2012. Today, 23 July 2010, Curiosity took its first drive, and the video can be seen here.

Curiosity, unlike the current Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity (operating on solar panels), will carry a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium’s radioactive decay. This will give Curiosity the ability to move without consideration of the time of year (winter on Mars means limited solar power). It will enhance the science payload and allow for the exploration of a much larger range of latitudes and altitudes.

Since the two previous Mars rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) have been so successful (operating for more than ten times the 90 day warranty), three of the key elements of the MSL mission are technological:

  • Demonstrate the ability to land a very large, heavy rover to the surface of Mars (which could be used for a future Mars Sample Return mission that would collect rocks and soils and send them back to Earth for laboratory analysis)
  • Demonstrate the ability to land more precisely in a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) landing circle
  • Demonstrate long-range mobility on the surface of the red planet (5-20 kilometers or about 3 to 12 miles) for the collection of more diverse samples and studies.

These are elements that will become increasingly important as we approach sending manned missions the Phobos, and later to Mars itself.

Curiosity on Mars
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The instruments aboard the MSL are designed to accomplish a set of Mission Objectives:

  • Cameras
  • Mast Camera (Mastcam)
  • Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI)
  • Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)
  • Spectrometers
  • Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS)
  • Chemistry & Camera (ChemCam)
  • Chemistry & Mineralogy X-Ray Diffraction/X-Ray Fluorescence Instrument (CheMin)
  • Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite
  • Radiation Detectors
  • Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD)
  • Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN)
  • Environmental Sensors
  • Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS)
  • Atmospheric Sensors
  • Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI)

Mission Objectives

  • Biological objectives:
  • Determine the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds
  • Inventory the chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur)
  • Identify features that may represent the effects of biological processes
  • Geological and geochemical objectives:
  • Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the martian surface and near-surface geological materials
  • Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils
  • Planetary process objectives:
  • Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) atmospheric evolution processes
  • Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide
  • Surface radiation objective:
  • Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic cosmic radiation, solar proton events, and secondary neutrons

Following a heat-shield descent through the Martian atmosphere and a parachute descent, the Mars Science Laboratory will complete its descent under the rocket powered Sky Crane:

Curiosity Sky Crane
Curiosity Descending Under the Sky Crane
Image Credit: NASA

Let us know what you think. What do you want to know about? Post a comment.


GOES-P Meteorological Satellite
GOES-P Meteorological Satellite
Image credit: NASA/Honeywell Tech Solutions, C. Meaney

GOES-P, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite is now scheduled for launch on 3 March 2010 at 4:28 PM Phoenix time (6:28 PM EST) Aboard a Delta IV Rocket. NASA-TV will provide launch coverage beginning at 2:00 PM Phoenix time.

The GOES family of satellites provide the familiar satellite images used by local TV news stations for their weather reports. The GOES Imager consists of a five (5) channel radiometer, which records one visible and four infrared bands simultaneously. This provides weather monitoring of rainfall and snowfall, as well as snowfall accumulation. The GOES program provides weather warnings for flash-floods, hail storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. It also will detect ocean and land temperatures, monitor space weather, relay communications and provide search-and-rescue support.

The environmental information gathered by GEOS is used for climate studies and climate prediction models, as well as the detection of ice, snow and glaciers. Land temperatures, crop conditions and forests can be monitored.


The GOES-P Imagers have improved resolution in the 13 micrometer channel from 8 km to 4 km. The finer spatial resolution allows an improved cloud-top product, height of atmospheric motion vectors and volcanic ash detection (for example, images of the Galeras volcano eruption in Columbia).

Image navigation and registration, power and fuel lifetime capability, monitoring of space weather and solar x-ray imaging, as well as search and rescue and communication services have all improved with the GOES-13 satellites compared to the previous generation.

GOES-P is built by Boeing for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt Maryland, is responsible for technical guidance and project management. NOAA’s Office of Satellite Operations (OSO), has the responsibility for the GOES program.

The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the Space Science & Engineering CenterUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison — is responsible for four major programs connected with GEOS. More information is available at their blog.

GOES-P Imager
GOES-P Imager
Image credit: NOAA