Ariane 5 ready to launch ESA’s JUICE mission to Jupiter

The rollout from the Final Assembly Building (or BAF) to the launch pad was as smooth as expected. Watch the launch of the historic JUICE mission on Thursday.
Credit – ArianGroup, ESA JUICE Mission, AQrian Space

On Thursday, April, 13, the European Space Agency JUICE mission will make history when it heads to Jupiter and its moons.

On April 13, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) will lift off from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, beginning its 8-year journey to the gas giant Jupiter.

The Ariane 5 rocket, carrying the JUICE spacecraft rolled out to the pad at Kourou, French Guiana, on April 11. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Eastern on April 13 in an instantaneous launch window.

Artist’s concept of the proposed JUICE mission to the Jupiter system. Credit – ESA?ADS Public Domain

According to ESA’s Mission Control, the mission to Jupiter will include four planetary flybys of Earth and Venus, then switching orbit from Jupiter to its largest moon, Ganymede, followed by a tour of the icy, complex Jovian system comprising a whopping 35 lunar flybys.

“The main goal is to understand whether habitable environments exist among those icy moons,” said Olivier Witasse, JUICE project scientist at ESA, in an April 6 briefing, reports Space News. “We will characterize in particular the liquid water oceans which are inside the icy moons.”

To accomplish that mission, the JUICE spacecraft will carry 11 different science instruments selected by the ESA in 2013. The instruments were developed by scientific teams from Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and Japan.

The science instruments include the following:

  • JANUS: Jovis, Amorum ac Natorum Undique Scrutator, camera system
  • MAJIS: Moons and Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer
  • UVS: UV Imaging Spectrograph
  • SWI: Sub-millimetre Wave Instrument
  • GALA: Ganymede Laser Altimeter
  • RIME: Radar for Icy Moons Exploration
  • J-MAG: Magnetometer for JUICE
  • PEP: Particle Environment Package
  • RPWI: Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation
  • 3GM: Gravity & Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons
  • PRIDE: Planetary Radio Interferometer & Doppler Experiment
  • (note this does not include spacecraft hardware but will exploit VLBI – Very Large Base Interferometry – to conduct radio science)
This is a scheme of the European spacecraft JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer), showing the placement of the scientific instruments. The antenna is covered with a cloth to protect itself from radiation. Credit – Sagittarius A. CC SA 4.0.

JUICE will be joined by NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, scheduled to launch in October 2024 and arrive at Jupiter in 2030. That spacecraft will conduct dozens of flybys of Europa to study the potential for life on that icy moon.

It will be “very fantastic” to have both Europa Clipper and JUICE operating at the same time in the Jovian system, Witasse said. “The two missions are very complementary,” with the potential of joint observations. One example is the planned flybys of Europa by the two spacecraft just four hours apart.

JUICE will focus more on the moon, Ganymede, entering orbit around the moon in late 2034 and remaining there through the end of the mission, currently planned for September 2035. The NASA mission will perform a detailed investigation of the moon, Europa, which shows strong evidence of an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust.

JUICE ultimately will crash onto the surface of Ganymede. “With the current knowledge of Ganymede, we can crash on the surface” without violating planetary protection guidelines to prevent harmful contamination. “We have shown that we cannot contaminate any subsurface ocean even if we crash on the surface,” Witasse said.

Ariane 5 ready to launch ESA’s JUICE mission to Jupiter

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