Friday, August 5, 2011

Let's go to Jupiter!

I watched the live coverage of the Atlas V launch of the Juno mission this morning. Good stuff. It made a vapor cone when it went supersonic! I love that. My twitter feed is just one message after another about the launch. Nicole Stott (@Astro_Nicole) wrote "Our view of Juno launch from Cocoa Beach. Next stop Jupiter! Beautiful!" And I thought, oh, she's going to where my brother lives! You mention one town in Florida and I automatically think of the other one. I think she may have meant the rocket though, going to the planet. Wouldn't take 5 years to just go down the road 120 miles.

It kind of amazes me how fast the rockets clear our atmosphere. It is really very thin. I don't care how many times I watch a launch it blows my mind that they're clear of the friction of the air in a matter of hundreds of seconds but there is a lot of energy left to be expended before they're free of the earth's gravity.

Here's a summary of the mission by Phil Plait.

Photos up on Flickr by NASA

Some rocket specifics are here.
This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V 551 vehicle configuration, which includes a 5-meter diameter RUAG Space payload fairing. The booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine along with five Aerojet solid rocket motors. The Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10A engine.

Screen grab showing big faring around around the spacecraft and the external solid rocket boosters

The angle of this shot from the VAB roof makes it look like disappeared.
It's going away from the camera obscured by the smoke.

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