A NASA spacecraft has set a new record for longest distance traveled when using solar power.
Juno, the first solar powered spacecraft, was launched in 2011. On Wednesday, it was around 493 million miles away from the sun. Juno was specifically designed to be able to operate at such a far distance away, with a large surface area of solar panels, due to its targeted destination.
Weighing it at four tons, the solar powered spacecraft has three 30 foot long “arms” that carry more than 18,000 individual solar cells between them. The potential electricity generated is approximately 14KW.
Currently on its way to Jupiter, Juno is expected to reach the gas giant on July 4th of this year. The plan is to orbit around the planet for a year to study the atmosphere, as well as its gravitational and magnetic field.
“Juno is all about pushing the edge of technology to help us learn about our origins,” Scott Bolton said. He is the Juno Principal Investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We use every known technique to see through Jupiter’s clouds and reveal the secrets Jupiter holds of our solar system’s early history.”
With the solar powered spacecraft being a success so far for NASA, it would also not be surprising for future missions to utilize the same electricity generating technology as well. In other NASA developments, special fuel is being produced to assist in powering future deep space missions. The organization has also been developing new green technologies that could help save billions of dollars in the aviation industry.