The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched its mission to explore Jupiter and three of its four moons: Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft will perform several gravity-assisting flybys of Earth, Venus, and Earth’s moon. These flybys will help the journey to Jupiter be more energy efficient. The first lunar-Earth flyby will occur in August 2024, with subsequent flybys of Earth and Venus happening through January 2029. The spacecraft will take eight years to finally reach Jupiter, with an expected arrival of July 2031.
One of the mission’s primary objectives is to investigate the three moons’ potential to support life and study Ganymede’s magnetic field. Ganymede is the largest satellite in the solar system and the only moon in our solar system with a magnetic field. Earth and Mercury are the only solid bodies that generate a similar magnetic field. It is believed that Ganymede, along with Callisto and Europa, have water beneath their icy surfaces, and scientists have hypothesized that this environment could be suitable for developing primitive life.
Between July 2031 and November 2034, JUICE will make 35 flybys of the three ice moons, using Jupiter’s immense gravitational pull to guide the spacecraft into orbit around the planet-sized Ganymede. This will mark the first time a spacecraft has orbited a moon other than Earth’s. Using several scientific instruments, including an optical camera system, magnetometer, radar sounder, and ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, among others, data will be collected from the three satellites. The spacecraft will remain in orbit around Ganymede until it exhausts its remaining propellant, finally crashing into the moon at the end of 2035.
Considering the harsh environment in the solar system’s outer reaches, including Jupiter’s powerful magnetic field, extreme radiation levels, and sheer distance from the sun, we’re proud that the JUICE program is using VPT space products for this historic mission. VPT offers a wide range of radiation hardened, radiation tolerant, and radiation immune isolated DC-DC converters, non-isolated point of load converters, EMI filters, and accessories designed for the challenging environment of space. With decades of proven spaceflight heritage, VPT’s high reliability space products provide solutions for mission-critical space programs. We congratulate everyone involved with the JUICE mission’s current and future success.