Emily LakdawallaApr 08, 2011

Juno is being shipped to Cape Canaveral today

Spaceflight Now is following along as the next Jupiter orbiter, Juno, is journeying from its birthplace at Lockheed Martin in Denver to Cape Canaveral. As of this moment it has been packed up and loaded onto a flatbed trailer, which is driving through Denver with police escort, en route to the Denver airport, where it'll board a C-17 for the trip to Florida. Weather looks favorable to get the spacecraft to the Cape today, where it will be stacked onto an Atlas V. We hope. As long as the employees at the Cape can keep working. There's a photo album of the transport at Spaceflight Now; here's some earlier photos showing the spacecraft being assembled and tested.

Juno prepares for vibration testing
Juno prepares for vibration testing NASA's Juno spacecraft looms above the assembly floor as technicians prepare the Jupiter-bound probe for a round of testing that simulates the vibrations the spacecraft will experience during launch. Juno's dish-shaped high-gain antenna has been installed in preparation for the test, along with the spindly truss that supports adjacent low- and medium-gain antennas. A single solar array has also been installed for the test, and can be seen in stowed configuration on the far side of the spacecraft. The spacecraft is mounted on a large rotation fixture which allows it to be turned for convenient access for integration and testing of various subsystems. Here, technicians are in the process of rotating Juno into a vertical orientation as they prepare to lift the spacecraft onto a test stand. This image was taken on November 22, 2010, in the high-bay cleanroom at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Lockheed Martin
Juno solar panel
Juno solar panel Technicians test the deployment of one of the three massive solar arrays that will power Juno. When Juno arrives at Jupiter in 2016, it will be farther from the sun than any previous solar-powered mission. The choice of solar power for Juno necessitates very large solar arrays 2.65 meters wide by 8.9 meters long. Once in orbit, the three arrays will provide about 450 watts of electricity. The photo was taken on Sept. 13, 2010 at the Materials Test Laboratory at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Lockheed Martin

Juno's launch period is only three weeks long, from August 5 to 26, and is followed very closely by the launch period for another LockMart spacecraft, GRAIL, which extends from September 8 to October 3. Hopefully a government shutdown, if it happens, will be brief enough not to put any pressure on Juno's launch. If Juno were to miss its launch period, that would force a delay of more than a year, I think, though I'm not totally sure; after its launch Juno has to return to Earth two years later for a gravity assist that will send it on to Jupiter. If GRAIL misses its launch period, it would mean a delay of several months, because the GRAIL spacecraft can't survive a lunar eclipse while in lunar orbit, and there's a partial eclipse in June 2012. For now, though, both spacecraft are on schedule for their planned launches -- here's to hoping they stay that way!

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