Juno, NASA’s $1.1 billion Jupiter orbiter that will search for clues about the origin of the solar system’s oldest and largest planet, launched successfully aboard an Atlas 5 rocket Aug. 5 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
“We are on our way, and early indications show we are on our planned trajectory,” Jan Chodas, Juno project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a press release sent out after the launch.
Juno now begins a five-year flight out to Jupiter, with arrival slated for July 4, 2016. It is designed to operate until October 2017, probing the jovian atmosphere for signs of water and trying to determine whether the planet has a rocky or a gaseous core. It will crash into Jupiter upon completion of its mission.
Juno, the latest in NASA’s New Frontiers series of medium-class missions, is unusual for an outer planetary probe in that it is solar, rather than nuclear, powered.