Around 13:33 UTC on 14 April, JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spread its wings following the Ariane 5 successful lift-off an hour earlier. The ESA spacecraft operations team at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, took control of the spacecraft and confirmed reception of the first telemetry and the smooth deployment of the solar arrays. JUICE is now officially on its way to Jupiter!
Additional equipment and instruments will be progressively turned on in the next few days and the operations team will run tests to make sure they are all fully operational.
“After years of work, watching this launch live from our sites across Europe was a very emotional moment for all those who have worked on this incredible mission. This is the best of Europe coming together!” said Michael Schöllhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space from Kourou. “I’m eager to see the next big thing coming from the European space community.”
Bringing together 80 partners across 23 countries and harnessing the brainpower of 2,000+ people, Airbus has designed and built JUICE under contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
On its over 5 billion kilometre long journey, the 6.2 tonne JUICE spacecraft will make a series of flybys of Callisto, Ganymede and Europa, collecting data to try to understand whether there is any possibility that the moons and their subsurface oceans could host microbial life. Carrying 10 state-of-the-art scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter, a radio-science experiment, a particle package and various magnetic and electric field sensors, the JUICE spacecraft will complete a unique 4-year tour of the Jupiter system.
JUICE is due to arrive at Jupiter in 2031 after a series of gravity slingshots from Venus and Earth to propel it on its way.