After a Thursday afternoon delay due to weather, the European space probe JUICE successfully launched on Friday. The Ariane 5 rocket took off at 2:14 pm from the European Spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana). The trip to the Jupiter system, which will be closely examined by the ESA probe with Austrian technology and scientific involvement, will take eight years.
Participants from Austria are comfortable
A separate “launch event” was held at the Graz Institute for Space Research (IWF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) for the scheduled start on Thursday. In the end, the experts from Austria who took part in the mission had nothing to celebrate until Friday. The researchers were relieved that the start was now successful.
The probe will be on its way to Jupiter and its icy moons for the next eight years. OeAW President Heinz Faßmann praised the participating researchers on Thursday: “It is great that this Jupiter mission is starting with know-how from Austria. Here we can show that we are an excellent research country. For the JUICE mission on Jupiter, the OeAW researchers have made their know-how available. artistic.”
Ten tools on board
There are a total of ten instruments on board the spacecraft: nine operated by European mission partners and one by NASA. Austria is one of 23 countries participating in the expedition. The mission, which costs around 1.6 billion euros, is controlled from the European Space Agency’s ESA control center in Darmstadt.
The spacecraft, dubbed Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, is designed to explore Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, and its icy moons – Callisto, Ganymede and Europa – which may provide conditions for life. However, it will not reach the Jupiter system until July 2031, Helmut Lammer of the International Monetary Fund told APA. Then various measurements are made for three and a half years. At the end of 2034, JUICE is expected to leave Jupiter’s orbit again, swing into a stable orbit around Ganymede – the largest of the gas giant’s moons – and stay there for twelve months.
The third task
JUICE is the third mission to orbit Jupiter. At the same time, a space probe with Ganymede is exploring a moon other than ours in a stable orbit for the first time. In total, JUICE is scheduled to complete 35 flybys of the icy moons Kallisto, Ganymede and Europa, approaching them within a few hundred kilometres. This enables highly accurate measurements of magnetic fields, gravitational fields and charged particles in the environment and surface inspection with cameras and spectrometers in a wide wavelength range. At the end of the mission, the probe will crash into the surface of Ganymede in a controlled manner, Lammer set the space probe’s trajectory.
The OeAW’s Space Research Institute has engaged in three instruments: With this, the Space Institute is making “a crucial contribution to the search for extraterrestrial habitats in our solar system,” said IWF Director Christian Helling. It also considers missions like JUICE “essential” to exploring planetary diversity both within and outside our planetary system.
In collaboration with the Institute of Experimental Physics at the Technical University (TU) Graz, the IWF has developed a quantum interference magnetometer. This is part of a 3-sensor magnetometer created by Imperial College London and TU Braunschweig. The Graz magnetic field sensor measures the strength of magnetic fields very accurately. In this way, the magnetic fields of the Jovian system can be accurately measured. The measurement principle used, which is not unlike an atomic clock, was patented by Roland Lammegger (TU Graz). The IWF has also calibrated radio wave instrument antennas and is a science member of the particle spectrometer team.
Take-off weight – 5.2 tons
More than half of the probe’s launch weight of 5.2 tons is fuel, which JUICE has to carry until the end of the mission. In order to gain additional momentum for the trip to Jupiter and its icy moons, JUICE will complete several flybys of Earth, the Moon and Venus.
On its way, the probe has to endure temperature fluctuations between plus 250 degrees – when flying over Venus close to the Sun – and minus 230 degrees near Jupiter: Beyond Gravity Austria (Berndorf / Lower Austria) developed the insulation temperature for this purpose, which consists of several layers of thin special plastic foil that achieves the insulating effect of a meter-thick brick wall in the vacuum of space. The Viennese company Terma provided important test facilities for the satellite, and GeoSphere Austria made it possible to calibrate magnetic field sensors at the Conrad underground observatory in Trafelberg (Lower Austria).
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