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NASA's Jupiter probe makes second key maneuver

An artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft during an engine burn.
An artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft during an engine burn.NASA via AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

NASA's Jupiter-bound spacecraft, Juno, executed its second deep-space maneuver on Friday after a 10-day technical delay, the space agency said.

The crucial engine burn lasted for a half-hour, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. ET, when Juno was more than 298 million miles (480 million kilometers) away from Earth, according to an online mission update from NASA.

"Preliminary telemetry from the spacecraft indicates that the burn was completed as planned," the agency said. A full report on the maneuver should be available next week after the mission team has assessed the spacecraft's performance.

Friday's engine firing was part of a two-step process intended to direct Juno toward Earth's orbit for a 2013 flyby. Since the rocket that carried Juno was not powerful enough to boost it directly to its destination, it must cruise out to space and swing back to use Earth as a gravitational slingshot to push it toward Jupiter.

The first firing took place as planned on Aug. 30. The second firing was initially scheduled for Sept. 4, but engineers said they needed more time to check out higher-than-expected pressure readings in the propulsion system.

NASA said the delay in the second maneuver would not affect Juno's arrival at Jupiter, scheduled for 2016.

Juno was launched last year. It's on a mission to peer through Jupiter's cloud cover and map its magnetic and gravity fields. The results could help scientists gain a better understanding of the processes that shaped the solar system.

The $1.1 billion mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

This report includes information from NBC News and The Associated Press.