› View Now
Preparing Juno for Liftoff
Mysterious Jupiter is the most massive planet in our solar system.
Now, NASA is preparing to send the pioneering Juno spacecraft on a one-year mission to study the stormy gas giant.
Its mission: to study Jupiter's core, atmosphere, powerful magnetic field and auroras -- all in hopes of expanding our knowledge of how our solar system formed.
Juno is launching from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a mighty Atlas V rocket.
The spacecraft arrived in Florida inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane, touching down April 8, 2011, on the Shuttle Landing Facility at nearby Kennedy Space Center.
From there, Juno was moved to the high bay at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, where technicians readied it for launch.
Several critical pieces had to be installed, including the high-gain antenna used for communications and all three power-producing solar arrays, which also were deployed and put through illumination testing.
As Juno was prepared for liftoff, elements of the Atlas V launch vehicle, built by United Launch Alliance, began arriving May 23.
The booster stage arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Skid Strip aboard a Russian Antonov cargo aircraft.
Two days later, the Centaur upper stage followed.
The Atlas V booster was hoisted into liftoff position inside the launch complex's Vertical Integration Facility on June 13.
Then, the rocket's five solid rocket boosters were attached.
The rocket's Centaur upper stage arrived at the launch pad June 24.
But before Juno could join its rocket, it had to pass the spin test, a final check of its weight and balance.
Juno was deemed ready to fly, then placed into the two-piece payload fairing that will protect the spacecraft during the first three-and-a-half minutes of the climb to space.
Early in the morning July 27, the fairing containing NASA's newest interplanetary explorer arrived at Space Launch Complex 41, where it awaits liftoff... and a rendezvous in five years with the enigmatic planet Jupiter.
› View Now