Deployment 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’s JUICE mission will make history when it heads to Jupiter and its moons.
On April 13, thewill lift off from the European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, beginning its 8-year journey to the gas giant Jupiter.
The Ariane 5 rocket, carrying the JUICE spacecraft, arrived at the pad in Kourou, French Guiana, on April 11. Liftoff is scheduled for 8:15 am ET on April 13 in an instant launch window.
Accordingthe Jupiter mission will include four planetary flybys of Earth and Venus, then shift Jupiter’s orbit to its largest moon Ganymede, followed by a tour of the complex and icy Jovian system comprising a whopping 35 lunar flybys.
“The main goal is to understand if habitable environments exist between those icy moons,” Olivier Witasse, ESA’s JUICE project scientist, said in an April 6 briefing, reports“We will characterize in particular the liquid water oceans found within icy moons.”
To accomplish that mission, the JUICE spacecraft will carryselected by ESA in 2013. The instruments were developed by scientific teams from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom , the United States and Japan.
Scientific instruments include the following:
- JANUS: Jovis, Amorum ac Natorum Undique Scrutator, camera system
- MAJIS: Jupiter and Moon Imaging Spectrometer
- UVS: UV Imaging Spectrograph
- SWI: Submillimeter Wave Instrument
- GALA: Ganymede laser altimeter
- RIME: Radar for exploration of icy moons
- J-MAG: Magnetometer for JUICE
- PEP: Particle Environment Package
- RPWI: Radio Wave and Plasma Research
- 3GM: Gravity and Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons
- PRIDE: Planetary Radio Interferometer and Doppler Experiment
- (Note that this does not include spacecraft hardware, but will exploit VLBI (Very Large Baseline Interferometry) to perform radio science)
JUICE will joinIt is scheduled to launch in October 2024 and will arrive at Jupiter in 2030. That spacecraft will make 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 for 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, which will enter orbit around the moon in late 2034 and will remain there until the end of the mission, currently scheduled for September 2035. The NASA mission will conduct a detailed investigation of the moon, Europa, showing strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust.
JUICE will eventually crash to the surface of Ganymede. “With the current knowledge of Ganymede, we can crash on the surface” without violating planetary protection guidelines to avoid harmful contamination. “We have shown that we cannot contaminate any subterranean ocean even if we hit the surface,” Witasse said.