Leonardo-Finmeccanica "lands" on Jupiter with Juno


On 5 July at 5:53 AM (Central European Time), after five years of traveling, the JUNO probe, with Leonardo-Finmeccanica technology on board, entered Jupiter’s orbit to study the planet’s origin and evolution.


JUNO (JUpiter Near-polar Orbiter) is the second mission of the NASA’s “New Frontiers” space programme. The probe will study the gravitational and magnetic fields of the gas planet, it will explore its atmosphere, measure the abundance of water and try to determine the planet’s internal structure, looking for evidence of a solid core.  


In order to achieve its ambitious objectives, the mission will make use of a suite of scientific instruments. The heart of JUNO will be the JIRAM spectrometer (Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper), funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and manufactured by Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s Airborne & Space Systems Division in Campi Bisenzio (Florence – Italy) and operated under the scientific supervision of INAF’s Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology (IAPS.


The instrument, which allows the simultaneous acquisition of images and spectral information via infrared through the use of dual focal plane optics, plays a key role in the mission allowing Jupiter to be observed at close range to understand its formation, evolution and structure. In particular, the spectrometer will conduct studies on the upper layers of the atmosphere, will be able to reveal any presence of methane, water vapour, ammonia and phosphine and will provide images of auroras. JIRAM belongs to a category of instruments that have already been widely tested on other international space missions such as ESA’s Rosetta and Venus Express and NASA’s Dawn and Cassini. An evolution of this instrument will be on board the BepiColombo probe that will study the planet Mercury.


The other Italian component on JUNO is the KaT (Ka-Band Translator), funded by ASI and manufactured by Thales Alenia Space (joint venture between Thales and Leonardo) with the support of the scientific team from the University La Sapienza in Rome. The KaT instrument will conduct radio science experiments that will be able to provide information on the planet’s internal composition and its gravitational field.


The KaT measures Jupiter’s gravitational field, breaking it down into its various spherical harmonic components. The knowledge of these components will enable us to answer many questions about the internal structure of the planet. The KaT is part of the Italian industrial excellence recognised worldwide, which began with the Cassini mission, and which evolved into the MORE (Mercury Orbiter Radio science Experiment) instrument planned on board ESA’s BepiColombo mission of which Thales Alenia Space is prime contractor.


Therefore, once again Leonardo has a leading role in this important space mission. The company also provided the Autonomous Star Tracker sensor (also manufactured in Campi Bisenzio), which guided JUNO on its almost 3 billion kilometre journey to reach Jupiter’s orbit, where it will continue to provide information on the probe’s position, thus helping keep the probe always on course. As stated by the mission’s U.S. team in a congratulatory message to our team: "After five years of traveling, your star tracker has perfectly positioned the JUNO probe, allowing Jupiter to welcome it with the words ‘grata domum’ (welcome home) in honor of the Roman origins of Juno and Jupiter.”


Photo Credit : NASA

Rome 05/07/2016