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JUICE gets green light

The ground teams that will operate JUICE and its suite of science instruments meet all the necessary requirements

ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) passed an important milestone, the ground segment requirements review, with flying colours, demonstrating that the teams are on track in the preparation of the spacecraft operations needed to achieve the mission's ambitious science goals.


While space missions operate beyond the realm of our planet, the bulk of the work is actually conducted by engineers and scientists on Earth – the ground segment – who plan the activities, monitor, command and communicate with spacecraft so that they point in the desired directions to gather the data needed by the scientific community.


The review board verified that the mission requirements for the ground segment, including operations of both the spacecraft and payload, are fully met. Special attention was dedicated to the specific needs of the instruments that are part of JUICE's payload relevant to all phases of mission operations, from calibration measurements during the long cruise phase to the challenging operations in the Jupiter system.


As part of the review, the mission concept and the ground segment design were also addressed, as well as all details pertaining the organisation of work, from procurement to scheduling and overall management, making sure that potential critical areas have been identified and appropriate risk-mitigation measures have been defined.


Scheduled for launch in 2022 with an expected arrival in 2029, the JUICE mission is designed to study the Jovian system and more specifically its icy moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. As the archetype for the giant planets of the Solar System, Jupiter and its moons are key to understanding the emergence of life.



Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the development, design and testing of RIME, one of 10 instruments on the JUICE spacecraft. This radar instrument is considered a key to mission success, because of its ability to directly identify and map the internal structure of the ice layers. Using a 16-meter antenna, which is provided by Space Tech GmbH under contract with Airbus Defense and Space, and working at a central frequency of 9 MHz, RIME is designed to penetrate the ice surface down to a depth of 9 kilometers, with vertical resolution of up to 30 meters in ice, covering the subsurface structure of the oceans of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

The radar development is being funded by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), with the University of Trento in charge of scientific aspects. RIME includes as well a contribution from NASA.