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Ariane 5 to launch Europe’s first mission to Jupiter

The JUICE mission aims to study the Jupiter system and its icy moons, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa

On April 14, the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 no.L5120 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, marking Europe's first mission to Jupiter. The six-ton spacecraft will embark on a long journey, performing several gravity-assist flybys of the Earth and Venus between August 2024 and January 2029 before reaching Jupiter in mid-2031. JUICE will conduct 35 flybys of Jupiter's largest moons, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto before entering orbit around Ganymede, where it will focus on characterizing the liquid water oceans inside the icy moon.

Lift-off is scheduled at 1214 UTC (09:14 Kourou / 08:14 EDT / 14:14 Paris).

The launch attempt scheduled for April 13 has been delayed due to bad weather.

The Flight VA260 is also the penultimate flight for the Ariane 5. and it will be the last ESA mission to launch on an Ariane 5 from European Spaceport in Kourou, before Ariane 6 takes over.

The JUICE mission is a collaboration between ESA and multiple scientific institutions across Europe, as well as NASA. It is the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision program and is expected to provide important insights into the formation and evolution of the Jupiter system, as well as the potential for life beyond Earth.

JUICE Mission was made ready for Jupiter

In 2014, The European Space Agency (ESA) has given approval to prime contractor Airbus and its partners to build a prototype spacecraft for the challenging Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (Juice) mission. The project, costing €1.5bn ($1.62bn in 2014), will be Europe’s first attempt to explore the solar system’s largest planet and its moons at close quarters. The mission is expected to launch in 2022 and will involve performing several flybys of Jupiter. The spacecraft’s 10 scientific instruments, including cameras and sensors to monitor the magnetic field, will be paid for by the national space agencies of ESA’s member states. More than 60 companies will be involved in building the components for the spacecraft. Juice’s 100-square-meter solar array will be the largest to ever be flown by Europe and will be made by Germany’s Azur Space.

Juice will spend approximately eight years cruising to Jupiter, during which it will complete fly-bys of Venus, Earth and the Earth-Moon system. It will reach Jupiter in July 2031; Juice will begin its science mission six months before entering orbit around Jupiter, observing as it approaches. It will then spend four years studying Jupiter and its largest moons, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. During the tour, Juice will make two flybys of Europa, searching for pockets of liquid water, studying its surface composition and geology, and investigating its atmosphere.