BOX – SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY – The JUICE spacecraft is heading to Jupiter with galactic equipment on board

As already mentioned, the European Space Agency has postponed the launch of the JUICE Jupiter mission due to unfavorable weather conditions, more specifically the danger of lightning. And so the spacecraft took off on Friday at 14:15 CET on the Ariane 5 launch vehicle from the European spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana, to reach Jupiter in July 2031 after a journey of nearly 8 years.

JUICE will examine the largest planet in the solar system, its environment and three icy moons (Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) in more detail than ever before and, among other things, will investigate possible signs of primitive life forms and the presence of the physical and chemical conditions necessary to create life.

JUICE’s main target will be Ganymede, which it will orbit, and at the end of its mission, in the year 2035, it will crash into its surface.

Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system and the only one with its own magnetic field. Beneath its icy surface, there is a putative layer of liquid water, the ocean.

The European spacecraft, whose development began in 2015, is scheduled to enter a gradually decreasing altitude orbit around Ganymede in 2034. It has previously flown by Europa twice, Ganymede 12 times and Callisto 21 times, approaching the farthest moon in Galilee at a distance of 200 km. kilometer.

10 different sets of scientific instruments have been placed aboard the European Jupiter probe, as well as a radiometer.

Hungarian companies also contributed

The PRIDE experiment (Planetary Radio Interferometry and Doppler Experiment) also includes researchers from the Astronomy and Earth Sciences Research Center at ELKH. During the experiment, specialists will follow the movement of the spacecraft with high precision using ground-based radio telescope networks in the celestial reference system set by distant quasars, which will help learn the gravitational field and internal structure of icy moons.

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Among the onboard instruments, the magnetometer (J-MAG) and particle environment package (PEP) were developed and tested by ELKH Energiatudomanyi Kutatóközpont and SGF Kft staff. The staff of the ELKH Wigner Center for Physical Research play a role in the processing and interpretation of magnetometer data. Admatis Kft from Miskolc manufactured a multi-layer foil-based thermal protection cover for a PEP unit.

He will return to Earth next August

According to the article posted on the specialized portal, during its “wandering” in the solar system, the spacecraft performs gravitational swing maneuvers near Earth and Venus as well. It will first return to the vicinity of the Earth next August, when it will gain momentum for the first time in the history of space exploration for its next flight next to both the Moon and the Earth.

According to the writings of astrophysicist Sándor Frey, who participated in the mission as a member of CSFK, several technological challenges had to be overcome during the construction of JUICE. This is Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field and radiation environment, against which sensitive instruments must be protected as effectively as possible. At this distance from the sun, the production of solar energy also causes difficulties, so a giant solar panel with a total area of ​​85 square meters was placed on the spacecraft. The temperature on Jupiter can be minus 230 degrees Celsius, and when flying over Venus it can be over 250 degrees Celsius, which also poses a great challenge when designing the device.

It was built at a cost of nearly two billion euros

To date, two (American) spacecraft have orbited Jupiter, Galileo (1995-2003) and Juno (since 2016). Based on Galileo’s measurements at the time, liquid water is assumed to exist in the deep layers of the icy moons. The discovery of Ganymede’s magnetic field is also a result of this probe. The main findings of Juno, which is still in operation, are related to Jupiter’s atmosphere and the planet’s inner core. The results of the two US space probes have raised new questions that JUICE may be able to answer.

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The spacecraft was built under the European Space Agency (ESA) program at a cost of about 1.6 billion euros. Institutions from several ESA member states have also joined JUICE’s work, and the US, Japanese and Israeli space agencies have also contributed to the programme.