ESA’s JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) mission has moved from the drawing board into construction phase after several of the challenges of the mission have been addressed. Scheduled to be launched in 2022, JUICE will reach the Jupiter system in 2029. It will then spend three-and-a-half years studying the planets and some of its satellites.
One of the main objectives of the JUICE mission is to observe Jupiter’s icy moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto, which are considered to harbor oceans of liquid water under their icy crusts. The JUICE mission will spend eight months around Ganymede, marking the first time when a spacecraft orbits another moon than ours.
JUICE will be equipped with 10 state-of-the-art instruments – cameras, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter or sensors that monitor the magnetic field and the charged particles in the Jovian system.
To meet these goals, the spacecraft’s design had to follow strict requirements.
One of these requirements refered to the extremely harsh radiation that the spacecraft has to face during its time at Jupiter. Components and materials have to be carefully tested and selected, and radiation shielding needs to be developed. Several of the JUICE mission components will be tested against radiation in Romania.
Due to the fact that the spacecraft will carry its activity at a far distance from the Sun, JUICE will also need a large solar array with solar panels covering a surface of almost 100 square meters.
Another aspect taken into consideration when designing JUICE refers to its electromagnetic field, which should not interfere with observations of the magnetic field of Jupiter.
The spacecraft will also have a weight of 5,3 tonnes, making it compatible with the Ariane 5 launcher.
Finally, the mission had to meet strict planetary protection guidelines, which ensure that risks to contaminate potentially habitable ocean moons is kept to the minimum.
Now that all these requirements have been addressed, ESA’s industrial partners can start building prototypes, which will again be subject to tests.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC)