NASA's Juno a Colorado Victory
On July 4 at approximately 9:53am local time, with more than 100 stressed and sleep-deprived engineers packed into one room, a three-second beep was all it took to elicit cheers from everyone inside.
On July 4 at approximately 9:53am local time, with more than 100 stressed and sleep-deprived engineers packed into one room, a three-second beep was all it took to elicit cheers from everyone inside. The short tone came from Juno, the latest NASA satellite to break records, which was primarily built and designed by Lockheed Martin in Colorado.
Now in orbit around Jupiter, almost 2 billion miles away, Juno is a distant but important reminder of the incredible skill and expertise available within the state of Colorado. Not only was the satellite partially constructed there, but as local news affiliate KDVR reported, Colorado researchers will also be using Juno to conduct important studies on the biggest planet in the solar system.
While it might not be obvious to residents, Colorado is a leader in the nation when it comes to aerospace engineering and manufacturing. According to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and Trade, Colorado boasts the second-largest aerospace industry in the U.S. This is thanks in part to the major companies that operate within the state, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Raytheon, among others. In 2010, the state was the recipient of a total of $1.5 billion in contracts from NASA.
"Colorado is a leader in the U.S. aerospace field."
The Juno mission is just the latest example of Colorado's leadership in the aerospace industry. Design and planning for the satellite began more than 10 years ago after Lockheed was awarded the contract. The Denver Post explained that several groundbreaking design innovations were responsible for Juno's completion. This included the use of 3-D printing techniques to create titanium brackets with exact precision, the first time 3D printing has been used for interplanetary exploration. After its launch in August 2011, Juno also broke the record for longest distance traveled by a solar-powered spacecraft.
After spending five years hurtling across the solar system, Juno finally arrived to complete the second part of its mission, which will last about 20 months. Much of this time will be spent understanding Jupiter by getting up close and personal with the giant planet.
This groundbreaking research will be led in part by a team of scientists from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, according to KDVR. It is this team that will be investigating how Jupiter came into being billions of years ago. As The Denver Post explained, CU scientists will use Juno's instruments to measure the level of water present on Jupiter. The team will also be able to monitor the planet's gravitational forces, hoping to figure out if its core is solid or not. This has implications for Earth-dwellers, since scientists are still unsure how a planet's gravity and magnetic field are influenced by its core, and how this impacts life on the surface.
Science and technology are a major part of Colorado's economy, and a key point in the success of the state over the last several years. As one of its largest industries, it's not unlikely that the aerospace sector contributed to Colorado's ranking as the fourth fastest-growing state economy in the U.S. in 2015. Colorado clocked a 3.6 percent GDP growth rate in 2015, higher than the 2.4 average seen around the country. When ranked on a scale of gross domestic product growth against other states, only California, Oregon and Texas came out ahead.
As the Post found, major industries throughout the northern Front Range region of the state were some of the biggest economic contributors. Information services, construction, manufacturing and professional or business services were some of the biggest winners in the state's economy.