Environmental Testing

Before its shuttle launch, the Galileo orbiter was tested in a space simulation chamber. The test chamber was designed to subject the craft to approximately the same environmental conditions that it will encounter in space.

Final Assembly

The Galileo spacecraft is being prepared for mating to its Inertial Upper Stage, which will propel it on its six-year journey from the Earth to Jupiter. The black and gold fabric that covers the spacecraft is designed to protect it from both the heat of the sun and the chill of interplanetary space. The conical structure near the bottom of the spacecraft conceals the atmospheric probe, which will be dropped into the Jovian atmosphere in 1995.


The Galileo spacecraft and its Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket were deployed from the space shuttle Atlantis October 18, 1989. Shortly thereafter, the booster rocket fired and separated, sending Galileo on its six-year journey to the planet Jupiter. Upon its arrival at Jupiter in December 1995, Galileo will release a probe into the atmosphere so that scientists can survey the composition of the planet's clouds. The orbiter will relay probe information and will survey and photograph Jupiter and some of its major satellites.

The Journey Begins

This artist's concept depicts the Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket firing shortly after its deployment from the shuttle Atlantis. Galileo's complex trajectory to Jupiter flung it by Venus once and then back to Earth for two fly-bys. Each pass added kinetic energy to the spacecraft, increasing its velocity so that it could reach Jupiter with a relatively small amount of fuel.

Into the Clouds

Upon its arrival in December 1995, the Galileo spacecraft will release an atmospheric probe into the clouds of Jupiter, giving scientists their first glimpse into the planet's atmosphere. Meanwhile, the Galileo orbiter will study and map Jupiter's major satellites from as near as a few hundred kilometers and will monitor Jupiter's atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Galileo at Jupiter

The Galileo spacecraft as it passed by Io, just prior to Jupiter orbit insertion, is shown in this artist's rendering. The orbiter will use the combination of a gravity assist from Io and a rocket thrust to enter orbit. Between these events, the orbiter will relay to Earth information received from the atmospheric probe descending through Jupiter's clouds. Note that the high gain antenna (dish-shaped antenna) will not be deployed as shown here, due to malfunction of the deployment mechanism.