Europe Will Start Mission to Jupiter’s Moons in 2022

Airbus is developing and building JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft for the European Space Agency, which will study Jupiter and its icy moons.

In May 2022, JUICE will begin a 7.6 year cruise to Jupiter to spend three and a half years in the Jovian system. Its main mission will be to explore the huge planet’s three largest icy moons in the hope of determining whether life is possible on these dwarf planets. But 2030, if we are lucky there could be improved answers to the questions: how do planets form? how does life emerge? how does the solar system work?

The mission will include a limited number of flybys of Callisto, Ganymede and Europa, and will then finally go into orbit around Ganymede and will be disposed on Ganymede’s surface. The highest Planetary Protection Category targets are Europa and Ganymede.

JUICE will visit Callisto, the most heavily cratered object in the Solar System, and will twice fly by Europa. JUICE will make the first measurements of the thickness of Europa’s icy crust and will identify candidate sites for future in situ exploration.

The spacecraft will finally enter orbit around Ganymede in 2032, where it will study the icy surface and internal structure of the moon, including its subsurface ocean. Ganymede is the only moon in the Solar System known to generate its own magnetic field, and JUICE will observe the unique magnetic and plasma interactions with Jupiter’s magnetosphere in detail.

It will take JUICE seven and a half years to travel the almost 600 million kilometers to the gas giant. Once the spacecraft enters Jupiter’s gravitational field, the first two and a half years of its three-and-a-half-year mission will be spent making about 30 observation overflights of the three moons, observing examining gravity and magnetic interactions, amongst other things. The last year will be spent in orbit around Ganymede to observe this moon in much greater detail.

On July 29, 2021, the ESA’s (European space agency) Juice mission to Jupiter has successfully endured a month of space-like conditions inside the Large Space Simulator, the largest vacuum chamber in Europe.

At 10 meters wide and 15 meters high, the Large Space Simulator (LSS) is big enough to accommodate an upended London double decker bus. It is part of ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in the Netherlands, the largest satellite testing facility in Europe.

The flight model of the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, Juice, was exposed to vacuum a billion times lower than standard seal level pressure, along with representative temperature extremes the spacecraft will encounter on its journey to Jupiter, ranging from 250°C to -180 °C.

Written by Brian Wang,