Airbus Defence and Space to build $350m Jupiter spacecraft

Posted on 14 Dec 2015 by Aiden Burgess

Airbus Defence and Space has signed a $350m contract with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop and build the agency’s JUICE (Jupiter Icy moons Explorer) spacecraft.

JUICE is the first European mission to Jupiter and is the first large mission of the ESA Cosmic Vison programme – due to launch in 2022.

The JUICE mission’s overarching theme is to explore the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants, as it will investigate the Jovian system with a focus on its icy moons and the possibly ocean-bearing worlds of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

The JUICE mission will study the Jovian system and focus on and address two key themes: exploration of the habitable zone within the Galilean satellites and exploration of the Jupiter system as the archetype of gas giants.

Head of Airbus’ Space Systems, Francois Auque, said the construction of the JUICE spacecraft would be going at full speed over the next few years.

“Building on the expertise we developed on our sites in Toulouse (France), Friedrichshafen (Germany), Stevenage (UK) and Madrid (Spain), the Airbus Defence and Space project team is now running at full speed and the first equipment is expected for delivery in summer 2016,” he said.

Airbus Defence and Space representatives sign a $350m contract to develop and build the European Space Agency's JUICE spacecraft - image courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.
Airbus Defence and Space representatives sign a $350m contract to develop and build the European Space Agency’s JUICE spacecraft – image courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space.

“The selection of subcontractors has started and will be completed by 2017, and we will be prime contractor for an industrial consortium of more than 60 European companies,

“When the project reaches its peak activity around 2017-2018, up to 150 people will be working in the prime project team.”

The contract for Airbus Defence and Space to develop and build ESA’s JUICE spacecraft was signed in Toulouse, in the presence of the director of science and robotic exploration at ESA, Alvaro Gimenez, and the Head of Space Systems Programmes at Airbus Defence and Space, Eric Beranger.

Airbus Defence and Space’s contract to develop and build the JUICE spacecraft follows it’s signing of a contract in November to develop the ESA’s Eurostar Neo, it’s new generation of platforms for geostationary telecommunication satellites.

JUICE powered by the Sun

The JUICE spacecraft weighs five and a half tonnes and will be powered by a large 97 sqm solar generator – the largest ever built for an interplanetary mission.

The JUICE spacecraft will carry 10 instruments to help fulfil its scientific mission and objectives, covering a wide range of measurement techniques such as optical; sub-millimetre; radar; laser altimeter; magnetic; electric; plasma and particle sensors, and radio-science.

The JUICE spacecraft will have an unprecedented level of magnetic cleanliness to avoid any perturbation of the aforementioned scientific instruments.

JUICE will cruise around Earth, Venus and Mars for a period of 7.5 years before reaching the Jovian system.

After entering into Jupiter’s orbit, JUICE will use multiple fly-bys to complete a comprehensive orbital tour lasting 3.5 years.

The end of the tour will see JUICE enter orbit around Ganymede, as it becomes the first spacecraft to ever enter orbit around an icy moon in the outer Solar System.

The JUICE mission continues Airbus Defence and Space’s tradition of designing and building spacecraft for  space exploration, having been involved in every European interplanetary mission.

These include missions to Venus (Venus Express, Mars (Mars Express), and Titan (Huygens).