NASA's Juno spacecraft has successfully completed a maneuver designed to fine tune its orbit around the Sun, preparing it for a rendezvous with Jupiter in just over five months' time. The probe will be required to undertake one further burn on May 31 in order to complete the fine-tuning of its trajectory.
Launched on Aug. 5, 2011, Juno represents NASA's next great effort to unravel the mysteries shrouding the solar system's most massive planet. Over the course of its mission Juno will orbit the gas giant 33 times, dipping periodically to an altitude of only 3,100 miles (5,000 km) above the planet's chaotic cloud surface.
During the recent maneuver, Juno's thruster expended 1.3 pounds (0.6 kg) of fuel in order to alter its speed by 1 ft (0.31 m) per second. The probe relies on a Leros-1b main engine and three solar panels in order to maintain power and control over its trajectory.
The probe has been designed to dive beneath Jupiter's tumultuous shroud in order to observe the planet's powerful aurora, and in so doing provide astronomers with answers regarding the gas giant's structure, formation, atmosphere and magnetosphere.