Galileo Spacecraft


Galileo Spacecraft was the first Planet Jupiter Obiter and the first outer solar system orbiter. It was launched by the Space Shuttle on 18th October 1989 towards Planet Jupiter.

Galileo Spacecraft Picture - Spacecraft to Jupiter

About the Spacecraft:

Galileo Spacecraft consisted of an orbiter and probe. The probe was released into Planet Jupiter atmosphere on the 13th, July, 1995. The Galileo Spacecraft mission ended on 12 September 2003.


Galileo Spacecraft was named after the astronomer Galileo Galilei.


Height: 5.3 m
Weight: 2,223 kg


The Galileo Spacecraft was launched from the cargo bay of the space shuttle Atlantis STS-34 in October 1989.

Galileo reached Planet Jupiter on 7 December 1995 and released a probe to study the atmosphere. The probe weighed 339 kg (747 pounds) and was 1.3m (4.3 ft) in width. It was built by the Hughes Aircraft Company.

Galileo Probe Picture

An Artist’s impression….Galileo probe’s entry into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

After orbiting the Jovian System for more than 7 years, Galileo spacecraft had nearly depleted the propellant needed to point its antennae toward earth and adjust its flight path. While still controllable the spacecraft was placed on a course to crash into Planet Jupiter.

NASA’s Galileo Jupiter obiter plunged into the Jovian atmosphere on 21 September 2003 to be destroyed in order to prevent the risk of Galileo colliding with the moon Europa and contaminating its pristine surface.

Galileo Facts:

Galileo returned 14,387 images with the Solid State Imaging Camera, 3,762 from Jupiter’s Orbit.

Jupiter Orbits: 25

Total Satellite Flybys: 34


1982 – 1987:

Galileo was originally scheduled for a 1982 launch. Due to Space Shuttle program delays it was re-scheduled to 1984, then 1985 and then to 1986.

Originally Galileo was going to launched from the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay using the Air Force’s Inertial Upper Stage rocket as a booster. It was changed to Centaur booster. However, after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1996, NASA cancelled the Shuttle version of the new Centaur due to safety considerations.

Inertial Upper Stage launching Galileo spacecraft Picture

An Artist’s Impression….Inertial Upper Stage launching Galileo spacecraft

In 1987, NASA decided to go back to using the Inertial Upper Stage, but it had a lower lifting capability than the Centaur. This resulted in using a Venus flyby and two Earth flybys to gain velocity by gravity assistance. The total flight time to Jupiter was nearly tripled to about six years.

1989:  Space Shuttle STS-34 (Atlantis) launches on 18th October, 1989.

Galileo spacecraft was the second spacecraft to be launched from the Space Shuttle.

Magellan spacecraft was the first interplanetary mission to be launched from the Space Shuttle. It was launched on Space Shuttle STS-30 (Atlantis) in May 1989 and was also the first mission to use Inertial Upper Stage booster for launching.

1993: Galileo spacecraft discovers Dactyl, the first asteroid moon.

The first confirmed asteroid moon discovery was made by Galileo during its flyby of 243 Ida in the asteroid belt.

1994: Galileo observed Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9’s collision with Jupiter.

7 December 1995: Galileo arrived at Jupiter and releases its probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere and brakes into orbit around the planet.

The spacecraft took 6 years to reach Planet Jupiter.

4 November 1996: The Galileo’s first flyby of Callisto at an altitude of 1,136km (706 miles).

19 June 2000: Galileo leaves Jupiter’s magnetosphere for the first time.

December 2000-January 2001: Galileo and Cassini collaborate to study the Jovian System.

17 January 2002: No data returned during Galileo’s final flyby of IO after radiation places the spacecraft in standby mode during the encounter.

12 September 2003: The end of the mission. The spacecraft plunges into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

Did you know?

* In 1994, Galileo made the only observation of a comet impacting a planet – comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s collision with Jupiter.

* Juno was the second spacecraft to orbit Planet Jupiter.

* European Space Agency (ESA) plans to send its first Jupiter orbiter called Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer in 2022.

Galileo Spacecraft Links

Goto Planet Jupiter Page

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