Americans everywhere celebrated the country’s 240th birthday Monday and those interested in the U.S. space program had another reason to cheer as NASA’s Juno vehicle arrived inside Jupiter’s orbit as midnight approached along the East Coast.
Juno’s real work is about to begin five years from its launch and almost 2 billion miles later as the spacecraft will soon start to send data back to scientists on Earth for an extensive 20-month study of the solar system’s largest planet.
“With Juno, we will investigate the unknowns of Jupiter’s massive radiation belts to delve deep into not only the planet’s interior, but into how Jupiter was born and how our entire solar system evolved, ” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Juno also represents a milestone in NASA’s efforts to increase the private sector’s role in America’s space program and the industry name to credit for support in this endeavor is Lockheed Martin.
The company’s Denver-based space systems segment developed and constructed Juno with the help of new techniques to make the vehicle as described in a March 2016 LinkedIn post by Rick Ambrose, head of the $9 billion space business.
“Our Juno spacecraft is… flying 3-D printed parts farther than any others produced in the world, 1.7 billion miles to be exact — an achievement that I believe will position us to see large portions of entire satellites being 3-D printed in the not-so-distant future, ” Ambrose said.
Ambrose gave AL.com a glimpse into how Lockheed could bring a satellite off the assembly line quicker with 3-D printing as part of a wide-ranging interview with the publication in June 2015.
“We’ll never print 100 percent of it. There are elegant components — focal plane arrays or integrated circuits — we can’t print. But can we print enough of it — 70 percent, 60, 80, whatever the number is — that we can take what would normally take five years and reduce it to 24 months.”
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