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See a billion-dollar European spacecraft lift off to Jupiter and Ganymede this week

See a billion-dollar European spacecraft lift off to Jupiter and Ganymede this week

Rocket launches happen every day, don’t they? More and more, yes, but most of them are routine. However, it’s not often that you witness a massive rocket lift off to a planet. That’s what’s happening this week as the European Space Agency (ESA) sends its Jupiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) – first imagined in 2004 and a live mission since 2014 – skyward from South America.

Here’s everything you need to know to see Europ’s mighty Ariane 5 rocket lift JUICE away from Earth’s gravitational influence and into orbit around the Sun:

What is JUICE?

JUICE is ESA’s flagship mission and its first on Jupiter. Delayed from May 2022, it will soon begin an eight-year interplanetary cruise to the Jupiter system via various fronds around Earth and Venus before arriving in the Jovian system in July 2031. JUICE is the program’s first L-class mission ESA’s Cosmic Vision and it costs around 1.6 billion euros ($1.7 billion).

When will JUICE be launched?

JUICE is scheduled to launch at 12:15 UTC (8:15 a.m. EDT) on April 13, 2023 on an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Spaceport in French Guiana, South America. The launch window lasts until April 25, 2023.

Where to watch the launch of JUICE live

The best place to watch the launch will be ESA web TVESA’s digital channel, which will broadcast the entire event live online.

How risky is this launch?

The Ariane 5 has been around since the 1990s and has a very high success rate, but a rocket launch remains the most unpredictable part of any space exploration mission.

What will JUICE do?

He will closely study three of Jupiter’s icy moons. After two flybys of Europa, 21 flybys of Callisto and 12 flybys of Ganymede – all within 67 orbits of Jupiter that will include views of the giant planet’s polar regions – JUICE will orbit Ganymede in December 2034 and spend nine months to image, map and take measurements.

At the end of 2035, the mission will end when JUICE hits the surface of Ganymede and is destroyed, primarily to prevent the spacecraft from contaminating Europa, which is suspected to possibly contain microbial life.

The profile of the JUICE mission

Here is the timeline of what engineers have planned for the spacecraft:

  • April 5-25, 2023: launch from the European spaceport of Kourou.
  • August 2024: first gravitational flyby of the Earth and the Moon.
  • August 2025: gravitational flyby of Venus.
  • September 2026: second gravitational flyby of the Earth.
  • January 2029: third gravitational flyby of the Earth.
  • January 2031: start of the scientific mission with the first images of Jupiter.
  • July 2031: Arrives in the Jovian system.
  • June 2032: first of 21 Callisto flybys (2032-2034).
  • July 2032: two overflights of Europe.
  • December 2034: orbital insertion at Ganymede (after 12 flybys).
  • End of 2035: the mission ends with JUICE diving into Ganymede.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.

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