Europe’s next Jupiter mission has just one second a day to launch and reach the correct trajectory that will take it to the gas giant planet in eight years. Fortunately, the mission will have one of these one-second windows every day until the end of April.
The universe must really align for Europe Explorer of the Icy Moons of Jupiter (JUS) mission to take off. The spaceship takes a long and winding route through the interior solar systemtaking advantage of the gravity planets Venus And Earthas well as earth’s moonto get to your destination with as little fuel as possible.
The 2.67 tonne (2.42 metric ton) spacecraft begins its journey with 4 tonnes (3.65 metric ton) of fuel in its tanks. Although the spacecraft’s designers admit that this is a lot of fuel, they want to save as much fuel as possible for the many maneuvers JUICE will have to perform at the destination to study three of the Jupiter‘s four main moons in detail.
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“We’re trying to stack all the planets, or the gravity assist maneuvers to get to Jupiter with the minimum of three and a half tons of fuel,” said Justin Byrne, head of science programs at Airbus Defense and Space. . which led the consortium to build the JUICE spacecraft, told Space.com. “So we have a one-second launch window to inject JUICE into the correct orbit.”
The first one-second window in which JUICE can launch will be on Thursday, April 13, shortly after 8:15 a.m. EDT (12:15 GMT), or 9:15 a.m. local time in Kourou, French Guiana, where the spacecraft will begin. his journey. For the remainder of April, a one-second launch window will be available each day for Ariadne 5 rocket to soar through the air with its precious payload enclosed in the nose cone.
Does this precarious requirement mean that we are likely heading for a series of launch delays? Speaking at a European Space Agency (ESA) pre-launch press conference on April 6, Véronique Loisel, program director at European launch provider Arianespace, said the company’s team had built “margins” in the JUICE pre-launch sequence that will absorb any delays and deviations from schedule that may arise during final preparations.
The Ariane 5 rocket, which will launch JUICE on what will be its penultimate liftoff, has already achieved such timing feats, Rudiger Abat, Ariane 5 program manager at ESA, said at the press conference. During its 30 years of service, the rocket, known for its reliability, launched five cargo flights to the international space station using the built in Europe Automated transfer vehicleswhich, according to Abat, also required precise timing.
Ariane 5 will launch JUICE directly into orbit around the sun, which will return the spacecraft to Earth in August 2024. At that time, the spacecraft will use a gravitational pull from our planet and its moon to put itself on a trajectory towards Jupiter. This gravity assist maneuver will be the first-ever drive that relies on the gravitational forces of the Earth and its natural satellite at the same time, and requires precise timing to achieve the desired result. JUICE will perform an additional gravity-assisted flyby of Venus in 2025, followed by two of Earth alone in 2026 and 2029, the latter ultimately launching the craft toward Jupiter.
In case Ariane 5 misses all of its one-second launch windows in April, the planets will align again for JUICE later this summer.
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