NASA's Juno Spacecraft Tweaks Course for Jupiter Encounter

PHOTO: Launching from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit.PlayNASA/JPL-Caltech
WATCH NASA's Juno Launch: Mission to Jupiter

Next stop: Jupiter.

NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully fired its thrusters on Wednesday and adjusted its path as it nears a rendezvous with Jupiter set for five months from now.

"This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18 p.m. PDT [11:18 p.m. EDT]," Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator, said in a statement.

Juno is about 51 million miles from the largest planet in our solar system -- and about 425 million miles from Earth, according to NASA.

The four-ton space probe was launched in 2011 and is equipped with three 30-foot-long solar arrays, along with 18,696 individual solar cells, to help it make the most of the solar power it receives on its journey.

Once it reaches Jupiter, Juno will orbit the planet a total of 33 times, coming as close as 3,100 feet above its cloud tops. NASA hopes the mission will help scientists learn more about Jupiter's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.