UPDATED: Watch JUICE begin its long journey to Jupiter

  • The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer launches from the spaceport located in Kourou, French Guiana at 14:15 today.
  • JUICE, as the spacecraft is known, will make multiple flybys of Earth and Venus before arriving at Jupiter in 2031.
  • The spacecraft will orbit Ganymede, Callisto and Europa to learn more about the Jovian Moons.


Today’s launch was scrubbed due to a risk of lighting. A second launch instant will be available on Friday 14th April at 14:14.

Original story

The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to launch its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer or JUICE spacecraft this afternoon on a journey toward our solar system’s gas giant.

The spacecraft will launch aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the spaceport located in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch is set to take place at 14:15 today, 13th April. The ESA is hosting a stream over on YouTube that we’ve embedded below.

Rather than a launch window, this launch must happen at a precise time.

“There is no launch window, only one launch instant,” programme director and launch operator at Arianaspace, Véronique Loisel told Nature.

Why a launch window? Well to paraphrase the great Rick Hoffman as Louis Litt, space travel is a very precise endeavour.

The JUICE spacecraft is only expected to arrive at Jupiter in 2031, but in order to do that it needs to be put into the correct orbit. Over it’s eight year journey, the spacecraft will travel Venus in 2025 and around Earth in 2026 and 2029 in order to gain the momentum needed to reach Jupiter. You can see the journey the craft will take in the video below.

The video above showcases just how well timed the gravity assists need to be in order to eventually reach the final destination of Jupiter.

Observations will begin before JUICE arrives at Jupiter’s orbit. Once it arrives the spacecraft will be used to observe Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

While all three moons will be studied, ESA seems intent on studying Ganymede and for good reason.

“Ganymede is unique in the Solar System in that it is the only moon to have a magnetosphere. Juice will investigate this phenomenon and the moon’s internal magnetic field, and explore how its plasma environment interacts with that of Jupiter. Juice will also study Ganymede’s atmosphere, surface, subsurface, interior and internal ocean, investigating the moon as not only a planetary object but also a possible habitat,” the agency wrote in an article.

The JUICE spacecraft will end once there is no more propellant left to sustain it’s orbit. The fuel the craft is launching with is expected to run out in late 2035 at which point JUICE’s final resting place will be Ganymede’s surface.

This is also the Ariana 5’s final mission with it being replaced by the Ariane 6.

Should JUICE be unable to launch today due to adverse weather or another stoppage, another launch instant will be available on Friday 14th April at the same time.

[Image – NASA on Unsplash]


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