The Jupiter Icy Explorer (JUICE) is an unmanned spacecraft being developed by ESA with Airbus Defence and Space as its main contractor. The craft has two unfurling solar wings which are each made up of five solar panels. These have a combined area of 87.5㎡

The JUICE mission, costing £1.3mm will be ESA’s most complex and challenging. It will study Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa which are thought to have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts and allow for a better understanding of their habitability potential.

See also, article: Europa: there may be life on Jupiter’s moon and two new missions will pave the way for finding it

Europa will enjoy two fly-bys. This will allow for a remote investigation of whether the liquid composition is comparable to our oceans, the thickness of crust in chaos regions. There will be evaluation of any existence of liquid reservoirs whether the moon is still active.

The launch of the mission will be by an Ariane 6 rocket in June 2022. It will reach Jupiter in October 2029. 

The trip will require five gravity assists, the first time that ESA has embarked on doing this.

Europa_Jupiter_System_Mission_artist_concept.jpg: NASA/JPL

By 2033, the spacecraft will be in orbit around Ganymede for a close up mission. This will be the first such orbit of a moon other than our own. The period of operations will overlap with NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, which launches in 2024.

The Spacecraft is endowed with Precision instruments that will also have to withstand a large temperature range from +110ºC to -230ºC as well as the harsh radiation environment.

These include:

Cameras and Visible and infrared imaging spectrograph

Spectrometer and Laser altimeter

Ice penetrating Radar and Six Magnetosphere sensors

Probes to assess plasma and radio emissions

Radio transponder and ultra stable oscillator

Interferometer (very long baseline) to measure the gravity fields.

When all the fuel is expended, after its final orbit of Ganymede, the spacecraft will be control- crashed into this moon so that final measurements and information can be gleaned.

Feature image: Solar panel preparation courtesy ESA/ Airbus Defence and Space

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