The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus Defence & Space in France as the prime industrial contractor for its mission to Jupiter and the planet’s icy moons and for the mission has awarded €350.8 million contract to the company.
Juice short for JUpiter Icy Moons Explorer is the space agency’s first mission to the largest planet and its moons in the Solar System and was selected in May 2012 as the first Large-class mission within ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–25 programme.
The spacecraft that will be sent to the planet will be assembled in Toulouse, France and agency will be collaborating with several ESA member states for the project. The spacecraft should be launched in 2022 and arrive in the Jovian system in 2030.
The negotiations of contractual details are still pending and the formal contract signing is expected to take place after the summer break. However, Airbus Defence & Space is expected to commence the work on the project as early as this month.
The contract covers the industrial activities for the design, development, integration, test, launch campaign, and in-space commissioning of the spacecraft. The Ariane 5 launch is not included and will be procured later from Arianespace.
The space will be sweeping around Jupiter for three and a half years and during that time, Juice will explore the planet’s turbulent atmosphere, enormous magnetosphere, and tenuous set of dark rings, as well as study the icy moons Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.
All three of these planet-sized satellites are thought to have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts and should provide key clues on the potential for such icy moons to harbour habitable environments.
Juice will use gravity assists with Callisto and Ganymede to modify the spacecraft’s trajectory, and two targeted Europa flybys will focus on the composition of non-water-ice material on its frozen surface, and the first subsurface sounding of an icy moon.
Callisto gravity assists will be also used to raise the orbital inclination to almost 30°, providing opportunities to observe Jupiter’s polar regions. The frequent Callisto flybys will enable unique remote observations of the moon and its neighbourhood.
The mission will culminate in a dedicated, eight-month tour around Ganymede, the first time any icy moon has been orbited by a spacecraft. During this period, Juice will perform detailed investigations of the moon and its interaction with the environment.
Juice will be equipped with 10 state-of-the-art instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter, radio-science experiments, and sensors to monitor the magnetic fields and charged particles in the Jovian system. One further experiment will combine data from the spacecraft telecommunication system and ground-based instruments.