Spaceflight Insider

NASA approves instruments for ESA’s ‘JUICE’ mission

Artist's impression of the JUICE mission. Image Credit: ESA/AOES

Artist’s impression of the JUICE mission. Image Credit: ESA/AOES

NASA’s contributions to an upcoming European Space Agency (ESA) mission have been moved from preliminary design to implementation phase. The mission, JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE), is scheduled to launch in 2022 and arrive at Jupiter in October 2029. JUICE will spend nearly four years investigating Jupiter’s giant magnetosphere, turbulent atmosphere, and its icy Galilean moons: Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa. 

On April 6, NASA received agency-level approval to enter the building phase for the JUICE instruments. This milestone is known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C), and it provides a baseline for the mission’s schedule and budget, which for this project is $114.4 million. The next milestone will be in about a year from now – the Critical Design Review (CDR). The CDR will review the instruments NASA is contributing to the overall JUICE mission. The mission as a whole will have its own CDR, scheduled for spring 2019.

“We’re pleased with the overall design of the instruments and we’re ready to begin implementation,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In the very near future, JUICE will go from the drawing board to instrument building and then on to the launch pad in 2022.”

JUICE is the first large-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 program. Aboard the spacecraft is a suite of 10 advanced scientific instruments. NASA will provide the Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS) as well as components and subsystems for both the Particle Environment Package (PEP) and the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration (RIME) experiment.

According to NASA, the UVS will investigate the dynamics and atmospheric chemistry of Jupiter’s icy satellites and its volcanic moon Io. The scientific team also hopes to learn more about the structure of Jupiter’s atmosphere and determine the relationship between changing magnetosphere conditions to observed auroral structures.

The PEP is an instrument made up of six sensors that is capable of making 3-D map of the plasma system surrounding Jupiter. One of the sensors, called PEP-Hi, will be provided by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and is made up of two separate components known as JoEE and JENI. JoEE will focus primarily on studying the magnetosphere of Ganymede, and JENI will observe the composition and dynamics of the doughnut-shaped cloud of gas and plasma that encompasses Europa.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is providing key components to the RIME experiment, which is an ice-penetrating radar. The device will be utilized to determine the subsurface structure of Jupiter’s icy moons. RIME will focus on Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa to study the formation mechanisms and interior systems that produce subsurface bodies of water.

NASA’s contributions to the JUICE mission will complement the space agency’s Europa Clipper multiple flyby mission, which is also scheduled to launch sometime in the early 2020s.

“The missions are like close members of the same family. Together they will explore the entire Jovian system,” said Curt Niebur, program scientist at NASA Headquarters. “Clipper is focused on Europa and determining its habitability. JUICE is looking for a broader understanding how the entire group of Galilean satellites formed and evolved.”



Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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