NASA’s Juno spacecraft on Tuesday became the first spacecraft to enter Jupiter’s orbit, and a South Florida tech company had a direct connection to the accomplishment.
Two subsidiaries of Heico Corp., headquartered in Hollywood and Miami, supplied parts for the spacecraft.
Sierra Microwave Technology, based in Georgetown, Texas, provided a High Power X Band Isolator, which protected the spacecraft’s transmitter during entry into Jupiter’s orbit. 3D Plus, based in Buc, France, provided memory modules for the spacecraft’s data recorder that will be used to collect and protect data it receives during the trip until it can be safely transmitted to Earth.
“They are entirely committed to what we call ‘high-reliability, mission-critical’ products, which are parts that can’t fail,” said Victor Mendelson, Heico co-president. “That’s important because you can’t call a spacecraft back home.”
Mendelson said that while he would like to take credit for the success, he pointed it to the two subsidiaries.
Heico, which deals in aviation, defense, space, medical, telecommunications and electronics products, acquired Sierra Microwave Technology in 2003 and 3D Plus in 2011.
“They wind up recruiting and working on some great stuff,” Mendelson said. “When something like this happens, these are the exhilarating moments.”
According to NASA, the goal of the Juno mission is to determine the makeup of Jupiter’s atmosphere and map the planet’s magnetic and gravity fields. The spacecraft launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Aug. 5, 2011. It is supposed to orbit Jupiter 37 times over 20 months.
The Juno mission is NASA’s second spacecraft designed under the New Frontiers Program. The first was the Pluto New Horizons mission, which flew past the dwarf planet in July 2015. A pair of Heico subsidiaries were also directly involved in that mission.