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The JUICE mission will ride into space on an Ariane launch vehicle

on 28 June 2019

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, JUICE, will ride into space on an Ariane launch vehicle, Arianespace and ESA confirmed at the International Paris Air Show. JUICE is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015 – 2025 programme. Its mission is devoted to complete a unique tour of the Jupiter system.

JUICE will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and in-depth studies of three of its largest moons and potentially ocean-bearing satellites, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

The launch period for JUICE will start in mid-2022 aboard an Ariane 5 or an Ariane 64 launch vehicle – depending on the final launch slot from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, South America.

The satellite will have a mass at liftoff of approximately six tonnes and will be placed in an Earth escape orbit in a direction to Jupiter starting a journey of 600 million kilometres. After a 7.5-year cruise, which includes gravitational assists from Earth, Venus and Mars, the spacecraft will enter orbit around the giant planet in October 2029.

The Jupiter tour includes several flybys of each planet-sized world, and ends with orbit insertion around Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System.

JUICE will carry the most powerful scientific payload ever flown to the outer Solar System. It consists of 10 state-of-the-art instruments plus one science experiment that uses the spacecraft telecommunication system with ground-based radio telescopes.

JUICE's instruments will enable scientists to compare each of these icy satellites and to investigate the potential for such bodies to harbour habitable environments such as subsurface oceans. They will also carry out observations of Jupiter, its atmosphere, magnetosphere, other satellites and rings.

Airbus Defence and Space is developing and building the JUICE spacecraft. As prime contractor for design, development, production, and testing of the satellite, Airbus will lead a consortium of more than 80 companies covering more than 110 contracts.

The capacity to endure the extreme radiation the spacecraft will face throughout the duration of the mission is one of the criteria that the JUICE mission has to meet during its preparation phase. Its components and materials have to be carefully tested and selected and radiation shields must be developed. Some of the JUICE mission components will be tested against radiation in Romania.

The team of the LEOPARD Competence Centre (Laser-Plasma Acceleration of Particles for Radiation Hardness Testing) — financed through the Research, Development and Innovation STAR Programme, Technology Space and Advanced Research – is working on developing radiation testing methods for hardware and software components of space missions. In particular for the JUICE mission, the Centre is developing a test facility for electronic equipment.

Image credit: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Jupiter: NASA/ESA/J. Nichols (University of Leicester); Ganymede: NASA/JPL; Io: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona; Callisto and Europa: NASA/JPL/DLR