The European Space Agency’s (ESA) latest interplanetary mission that is set to explore Jupiter and its three largest Moons, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), successfully launched on Friday, April 14, has been touted as a near-perfect feat. JUICE had little-to-no issues during the launch sequence, right from blasting off atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) in Kourou, French Guiana within a one-second launch window, to deploying its massive solar arrays.
Now it has been a few weeks since JUICE launched and began its voyage to the outer Solar System, and over the next few weeks, the spacecraft will begin deploying a 16-meter-long radar antenna, 10.6-meter-long magnetometer boom, and various other instruments to aid its study of the Jovian planet and its largest Moons – Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. While the spacecraft’s mission up to this point has been pretty smooth-sailing, ESA announced on April 28 that JUICE’s radar antenna was having trouble with releasing from its mounting bracket — which, in turn, is preventing the antenna from fully deploying as expected.
To learn more about the spacecraft’s launch, the current status of the mission, and what’s next for JUICE teams, NSF sat down with JUICE program manager Giuseppe Sarri of ESA.