Airbus is developing and building JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) spacecraft for the European Space Agency, which will study Jupiter and its icy moons. As prime contractor, Airbus will employ 150 people and lead a consortium of more than 60 companies during the course of the project.

In May 2022, JUICE will begin a 7.6 year cruise to Jupiter to spend three and a half years in the Jovian system. Its main mission will be to explore the huge planet’s three largest icy moons in the hope of determining whether life is possible on these dwarf planets. What if extra-terrestrial life does exist? For centuries, this question – which both fascinates and frightens mankind – has remained unanswered. But by the year 2030, answers to the questions: how do planets form? how does life emerge? how does the solar system work?  may well have been found.

3 and a half years

Mission time

Airbus

Prime contractor

Almost 100m²

Largest solar arrays ever built for any interplanetary spacecraft

600 million kilometers

Distance to reach Jupiter

In July 2015, the company was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as prime contractor for the design, development, production, and testing of a new spacecraft named ‘JUICE’. As its name implies (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), the mission will be to explore the Jovian system, focusing on three of Jupiter’s huge Galilean moons: Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, which are as large as dwarf planets and covered by an icy crust. 

 

                   "If you can get to Jupiter, you can do anything"

                                                                                                                                                  Vincent Poinsignon, JUICE Project Manager

It will take JUICE seven and a half years to travel the almost 600 million kilometres to the gas giant. Once the spacecraft enters Jupiter’s gravitational field, the first two and a half years of its three-and-a-half-year mission will be spent making about 30 observation overflights of the three moons, observing examining gravity and magnetic interactions, amongst other things. The last year will be spent in orbit around Ganymede to observe this moon in much greater detail.

The challenges are enormous. JUICE must deal with very low and very high temperatures as it will circle Earth, Mars and Venus for gravity assist manoeuvres to build up enough speed to reach Jupiter’s orbit. Jupiter’s cold environment also makes it hard to collect energy. "The goal is to investigate whether there are liquid oceans under these icy crusts which might harbor organic components or even life" says Vincent Poinsignon, JUICE project manager.

 

As it will carry 10 scientific instruments that require a very high level of magnetic cleanliness, the spacecraft itself may cannot generate electromagnetic signals. As all electronic systems generate electromagnetic waves when they are in operation, the Airbus engineers have devised a way to reduce them as much as possible.

In March 2017, the project passed an important milestone, when the preliminary design of JUICE and its interfaces with the scientific instruments and the ground stations were fixed, enabling the build phase of the test models of the spacecraft to begin.

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Last stop on Earth at Airbus before odyssey to Jupiter for JUICE
The Airbus-built JUICE spacecraft, (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission) developed for the European Space Agency (ESA) has arrived in Toulouse, where it will stay for its final assembly and test campaign at Airbus’ satellite integration centre, before being shipped to Kourou in French Guiana for launch on Ariane 5.
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JUICE Jupiter probe’s first taste of space
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.
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Company
MAGBOOM successfully attached to JUICE
JUICE, the European Space Agency's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission, has successfully passed its latest milestone: space engineers at Airbus’ satellite integration centre in Friedrichshafen (Germany) have attached the magnetometer boom (MAGBOOM) to the spacecraft. The MAGBOOM carries five magnetically sensitive instrument sensors to keep them far from any disturbances from the main spacecraft. The sensors are part of the magnetometer J-MAG and the Radio and Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) scientific instruments.
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