The Airbus-built JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission) spacecraft took off from Toulouse, France, for the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on board of an Antonov aircraft before the satellite’s launch on an Ariane 5 in April.
The start of the launch campaign brings to a close a nearly decade-long technological and industrial adventure for Airbus, which began even before being selected as prime contractor by ESA in 2015, and has involved more than 80 companies and research centers across Europe.
The unprecedented JUICE mission will last for more than a decade, managed by ESA, and will study Jupiter’s magnetic fields as well as looking for life-bearing conditions through the ice on the main Jovian moons.
On its billions of kilometers long journey, the 6.2 ton JUICE spacecraft will collect data on the icy moons to try to understand whether there is any possibility that these moons 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 tour of the Jupiter system that will include in-depth studies of three potentially ocean-bearing moons: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.