NASA's Galileo mission today took another step toward its 1995 rendezvous with Jupiter when the spacecraft successfully completed a small, precise maneuver to shape its flight past the Earth later this year for a gravity-assist flyby.
Using small rocket thrusters firing in pulses, the slowly spinning craft changed its velocity in its solar orbit by just over half of one meter per second, or about 1.1 mph.
This was the fourth in a series of six trajectory adjustments planned for the transit from Galileo's Venus gravity assist February 9, 1990 to its first Earth gravity assist this coming December 8. A second Earth gravity assist in December 1992 is needed to give the spacecraft all the velocity it needs to reach Jupiter in 1995.
At Jupiter, Galileo will send an instrumented probe into the planet's atmosphere and then go into orbit for a two-year study of all aspects of the Jovian system. It will use gravity assists from Jupiter's large satellites to change its orbit repeatedly and make comprehensive scientific observations of Jupiter, its satellites, and its magnetosphere.
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