Tuesday, August 02, 2011

NASA Eyes Juno Launch Friday & TS Emily

A powerful Atlas V rocket is being prepped for the planned launch Friday of a $1.1 billion NASA mission to Jupiter, but mission managers will be keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Emily in the Caribbean.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas and its payload -- NASA's Juno spacecraft -- are slated to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:34 a.m. Friday. The launch window that day will extend until 12:43 p.m.

Forecasters at the Air Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron say there is a 70 percent chance conditions will be acceptable for launch on Friday. However, Tropical Storm Emily is expected to strengthen and be in close proximity to central Florida by Saturday. Twenty- to 30-knot winds are expected along with an increasing chance of rain showers. There is a 60 percent chance weather would force a scrub on Saturday or Sunday.

NASA's Juno spacecraft is to be launched on a five-year journey to Jupiter. The prime goal of the mission is to yield a better understanding of the origin and evolution of Jupiter, which is thought to be the first planet to form after the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

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