JUICE, the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA), has left Airbus’ satellite integration centre in Friedrichshafen (Germany) and is now on its way to the Large Space Simulator (LSS) chamber of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Noordwijk (Netherlands) for its first taste of space.
Over the next 12 months, starting with 31 days in the vacuum chamber in the LSS, the spacecraft will be exposed to the environmental conditions of space and will have to prove it is ready for its journey via Venus and Mars to Jupiter and its mission in the Jovian system.
Since its arrival 12 months ago at the Airbus site, JUICE has been kitted out with its final components including harness, power electronics, on-board computer, communication systems, navigation sensors, thermal hardware and crucially its scientific instruments. At the ESA test centre at ESTEC in Noordwijk, the spacecraft will undergo a full environmental test campaign including verifying its thermal control system and its electrical elements.
Together with their ESA colleagues, a total of 120 Airbus space engineers and subcontractors will prepare and carry out the tests. In July this year, the spacecraft will head for Airbus in Toulouse for flight configuration assembly, before the final environmental tests including electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), mechanical, deployment, and propulsion. It will then be shipped to the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana.
The 6.2 ton JUICE spacecraft will set off in 2022 on its near 600 million-kilometre-long journey to Jupiter. The spacecraft will carry 10 state-of-the-art scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter, a radio-science experiment, and sensors to monitor the magnetic fields and charged particles in the Jovian system. JUICE will complete a unique tour of the Jupiter system that will include in-depth studies of three potentially ocean-bearing moons with liquid water, Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.
JUICE will spend more than three years in the Jupiter system, collecting data to provide answers on the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life. It will spend nine months orbiting the icy moon Ganymede analysing its nature and evolution, and its potential habitability.