The JUICE probe prepares expedition to Jupiter and its icy moons

JUICE will analyze the Jovian system [which groups the planet Jupiter and its satellites] and will be placed in orbit around Ganymede , the largest moon.


The JUICE space probe , built by Airbus in France, is set for an eight-year voyage with a mission to explore the icy moons of Jupiter , a European Space Agency ( ESA ) mission to confirm the existence of subterranean oceans that could harbor life.

In the clean room of the manufacturer Airbus, in the French city of Toulouse, JUICE ( Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer ) is prepared for the first part of its journey to the launch site in French Guiana.

A team of engineers, technicians and scientists who have been working for this mission for years proudly display the 6.2-ton device, which has 10 scientific instruments, an antenna 2.5 meters in diameter and huge solar panels that will have to be tested one last time.

In a few days, the spacecraft will travel in a container to Kourou, where it will be propelled by an Ariane 5 rocket in April.

A commemorative plaque paying homage to Galileo has been engraved on the rear of the satellite . The scientist was the first to observe Jupiter ‘s moons , in 1610.

Volcanic Io and icy Europa , Ganymede and Callisto were “the first moons discovered” after our own, explains Cyril Cavel, JUICE project manager for Airbus Defense & Space.

The scientist proudly displays the phrase “Sidereus nuncius” [“the messenger of the stars, in Spanish] by the Italian astronomer, the first astronomy treatise in history.

Four hundred years later, the human being is about to explore in depth the natural satellites of the gas giant.

Earth and Venus as a catapult

JUICE will be the first probe to be placed in orbit of a moon -except for the terrestrial one- within the framework of a scientific mission of three and a half years after the arrival in the Jovian system.

It will also be the first European probe to exceed Martian orbit, on a long 8-year journey that includes first flybys of Earth and Venus -a maneuver called gravity assist- that allows it to gain more momentum to reach the Jovian system that it orbits the sun at an average distance of 740 million kilometers.

“It’s like a catapult that propels us to Jupiter ,” explains Nicolas Altobelli, ESA ‘s mission scientist .

The probe’s 85 m2 solar panels must also be prepared to face temperatures close to 220 degrees Celsius below zero.

The spacecraft must be inserted into the orbit of Jupiter (…) after a braking process carried out in complete autonomy that takes advantage of gravitational assistance to lose speed, in the opposite direction to that used at the beginning of the trip. “If the maneuver fails, the mission is over,” explains Cyril Cavel.