NASA all set to launch spacecraft to Jupiter

By MARCIA DUNN | August 5, 2011 | 4:00 AM EDT

This image provided by NASA shows an Atlas V rocket with NASA's Juno spacecraft payload at Space Launch Complex 41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Thursday evening Aug. 4, 2011. Juno's launch window begins Friday at 11:34 a.m. EDT. The robotic explorer Juno is set to become the most distant probe ever powered by the sun. Juno is equipped with three tractor-trailer-size solar panels for its 2 billion-mile (3.2 billion kilometer) journey into the outer solar system. (AP Photo/Bill Ingalls/NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is on the verge of launching a new solar-powered spacecraft all the way to Jupiter.

The robotic explorer, named Juno, is atop an unmanned rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:34 a.m. Friday.

It will take Juno five years to reach Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. The spacecraft will be powered by three huge solar panels. It will be the farthest any solar-powered craft has ever traveled. Previous Jupiter probes have relied on nuclear energy.

Jupiter is believed to be the oldest planet in the solar system. Astronomers hope to figure out the recipe for making planets, by uncovering the ingredients of this gas giant. Juno will spend at least one year circling Jupiter's poles.