ESA approves construction of Juice mission to explore Jupiter


The European Space Agency (ESA) has approved the construction of a prototype of its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) mission, which will help explore the atmosphere and magnetosphere of the planet Jupiter.

The approval was given after fixing the preliminary design of Juice and its interfaces with the scientific instruments and the ground stations earlier this month.

With the approval, ESA’s industrial partners, led by Airbus, will build a prototype spacecraft for rigorous testing ahead of the Juice mission launch.

The preliminary design review also confirmed the 5.3t spacecraft’s compatibility with its Ariane 5 launcher.

Scheduled to be launched by 2022, the mission will also examine Jupiter’s dark rings and its satellites, as well as its icy moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

Once launched, Juice will spend three-and-a-half years examining Jupiter and reach the Jovian system in 2029.

Equipped with ten instruments such as cameras, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter, radio-science experiments and sensors, the mission will carry out a dedicated eight-month tour around Ganymede.

“The spacecraft design has been extensively and positively reviewed, and confirmed to address the many critical mission requirements."

Juice will be powered by a large solar array, including two wings of five panels, which will cover a total surface area of nearly 100m².

ESA Juice project manager Giuseppe Sarri said: “The spacecraft design has been extensively and positively reviewed, and confirmed to address the many critical mission requirements.

“So far we are on schedule, and are delighted to begin the development stage of this ambitious large-class mission.”

ESA also noted that following its launch, Juice will make a total of five gravity-assist flybys, one each at Mars and Venus, and three at Earth, to set it on course for Jupiter.


Image: Juice’s journey to Jupiter. Photo: courtesy of European Space Agency.