Airbus readies JUICE for Jupiter mission; Italian Space Agency, Leonardo sign deal for PLATiNO

Wokers Airbus-built JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission) spacecraft will shortly leave Toulouse, France, for Kourou, French Guiana, for lift-off on an Ariane 5 in April 2023. Shipment is expected in early February. The spacecraft has been at Airbus in Toulouse since August 2021 for final assembly and test. This included integration of the final instrument units and the largest solar arrays ever to fly on a planetary exploration mission, needed to power the mission at 740 million kilometres from the Sun.

“With JUICE’s departure for the launch site fast approaching, we look back at its long Earthly journey through various Airbus sites in Europe towards final integration and involving close to 500 Airbus employees who prepared the spacecraft for its eight-year cruise,” said Cyril Cavel, JUICE Project Manager at Airbus Defence and Space. “It has been an incredible adventure, along with more than 80 companies across Europe, to bring ESA’s vision to life and ultimately study Jupiter and its icy moons in fine detail.”

A commemorative plaque was unveiled during a press event in Toulouse as a tribute to Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. The plaque has been mounted on the spacecraft to honour Galileo who was the first to view Jupiter and its largest moons through a telescope in 1610.

On its more than 2 billion-kilometre  long journey, the 6.2 ton JUICE spacecraft will collect data on the icy moons to try to understand whether there is any possibility that these moons could host microbial life. Carrying 10 state-of-the-art scientific instruments, including cameras, spectrometers, an ice-penetrating radar, an altimeter, a radio-science experiment, and sensors, the JUICE spacecraft will complete a unique tour of the Jupiter system that will include in-depth studies of three potentially ocean-bearing moons: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

During its four year-long mission, JUICE will spend nine months orbiting the icy moon Ganymede analysing its nature and evolution, characterising its subsurface ocean, and investigating its potential habitability. After being selected by ESA as prime contractor in 2015 Airbus has led a pan European industrial consortium to design and build this unique spacecraft.

Italian Space Agency and Leonardo sign deal for PLATiNO missions
The Italian Space Agency (ASI) signed two contracts with Leonardo for a total value of about 33 million euros on the development and construction of the PLATiNO 3 high-resolution camera and the PLATiNO 4 hyperspectral camera. The two state-of-the-art optical instruments are at the technological heart of the upcoming PLATiNO missions (mini high-tech space platform), ASI’s programme to support, through the use of mini satellites, a wide range of missions in the field of Earth observation, telecommunications, and science.

For the PLATiNO 3 mission, Leonardo will build a very high resolution, ultra-compact camera with low operating costs, capable of capturing excellent quality images with a level of detail on the ground (spatial resolution) of at least 50 cm. The images acquired by the instrument will support the monitoring of the territory and infrastructures, also for civil protection purposes.

For PLATiNO 4, Leonardo will supply a latest generation compact and lightweight hyperspectral camera. The instrument, the result of the skills gained in the development of PRISMA, will have dimensions and mass less than half of PRISMA itself, while guaranteeing equal performance. Thanks to hyperspectral technology it is possible to carry out the chemical-physical analysis of the observed area from Space, providing valuable information to support the prevention of natural and anthropic risks, the monitoring of cultural heritage, agricultural activities, natural resources and the atmosphere, and the exploitation of mineral resources. PLATiNO 4 will operate in synergy with PRISMA Second Generation, this development programme is underway, again under the guidance of the Italian Space Agency.

Both instruments, for which Leonardo is also responsible for the data processing, play a fundamental role in ASI’s technological roadmap aimed at supporting future missions of the Agency, from an evolutionary point of view, consolidating Italy’s leadership in Earth observation from Space.


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