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Airbus has completed assembly of the JUICE space probe to study the icy moons of Jupiter - it will fly in April.
On Friday, Airbus announced that the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) interplanetary robotic space station is fully assembled and ready to be sent to the launch site and further into space en route to the moons of Jupiter. The probe weighing 6.2 tons will be launched into space on a European Ariane 5 launch vehicle from the Kourou launch site in French Guiana. The journey to the moons of Jupiter will take about 8 years, and the scientific work will last a little more than 4 years.
Airbus was chosen as the general contractor for the production of JUICE in 2015. For the past year and a half, the JUICE apparatus has been undergoing final assembly and testing in France at the company's enterprise. The final activities included the installation and layout of a huge 100 m2 solar array, which was developed by the German company Azur Space. By the way, about 500 Airbus employees and over 80 companies from all over Europe worked on the probe.
The probe will leave for the spaceport in early February, where it will be installed on one of the latest Ariane 5 rockets. By the end of 2023, flight tests should begin and then regular flights of the new European Ariane 6 launch vehicle. The departure of the JUICE station in April 2023 will be a glorious end to the service European space horse.
The JUICE station should reach the orbit of Jupiter in July 2031 after a series of gravitational maneuvers in the inner solar system. On board the device will be 10 instruments for studying magnetic fields and obtaining other data in the system of Jupiter and its satellites Ganymede, Europa and Callisto, under the ice of which the oceans may be hiding. On-board instruments include cameras, a radar capable of penetrating into and under the ice, sensors for measuring altitude and obtaining other information.
After nearly three and a half years of flying around Ganymede, Europa and Callisto in orbit around Jupiter, in December 2034 the spacecraft will have to enter orbit around Ganymede to get a closer look at the largest moon in the solar system. After completing the mission, which is estimated to cost around 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion), JUICE is expected to fall on Ganymede in late 2035, when it runs out of fuel needed to maintain an orbit around the moon.
This will not be the only mission to the Jupiter system of moons in the coming years. In 2024, NASA will launch the Europa Clipper probe to its moon Europa. The station will reach the target a year ahead of the JUICE mission - in 2030. The Europa Clipper instrument will look for signs of possible biological life in Europa's subglacial ocean. The JUICE probe will also deal with this issue, along with a wider range of tasks.