The European Space Agency (ESA) and Airbus Defense and Space signed a deal on Tuesday, Dec.8 contracting the latter to build the former's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft. The deal is said to be worth €350 million or about $385 million.
The JUICE mission is set to fly in 2022 and is expected to arrive at Jupiter after 7.5 years on an Ariane 5 rocket.
The materials for the 5.5-tonne probe will be obtained from all across Europe and creation will take place in Toulouse, France.
Now that the deal has been signed, Airbus will coordinate with various companies that can help build, arrange and test the satellite as needed.
JUICE will carry several equipment on board, such as spectrometers, laser altimeter, cameras, ice-penetrating radar, plasma and particle detectors, radio science hardware and a magnetometer. Such sophisticated devices will hopefully guide the scientific mission towards success.
The distance of Jupiter from the Sun is about 780 million kilometers, or about 93 million miles. For all the high-technology instruments to work, JUICE will require the biggest solar array system ever sent on a planetary mission. Such generator will have a collecting space of about 100 square meters or around 1076 square feet.
The main focus of the JUICE mission is to determine if the Galilean moons of Jupiter, namely Europa, Callisto and Ganymede can sustain microbial life.
"Galileo's discovery of the giant moons of Jupiter four centuries ago caused a revolution in how we saw our place in the Universe," said Mark McCaughrean from ESA.
The three moons are all believed to have oceans underneath their icy crusts. With this, the possibility of the moons to have a conducive environment for simple biological life has been strongly suggested.
Once JUICE is launched, the spacecraft will utilize gravitational flybys of Venus, Earth and Mars to propel its ways out to the Jovian system.
Upon arrival, the probe will move around Jupiter to begin a series of close fly-through of Europa and Callisto. Finally, the spacecraft will settle in an orbit near Ganymede.
Airbus has a long list of exploration spacecraft designs and creation projects under its belt. The company has been involved in all of the interplanetary missions set by Europe. The missions include Mars Express, Venus Express, Huygens and Rosetta.
Photo: David St. Louis | Flickr