An Ariane 5 rocket carrying a spacecraft bound for Jupiter’s icy moons was launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana at around 8 a.m. ET (5 a.m. PT) on Friday, April 14, in a spectacular daytime liftoff.
The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft from the European Space Agency has a mass of 2.6 tonnes and is carrying nearly 4 tonnes of fuel. This will be the final launch of an ESA mission using an Ariane 5 rocket, manufactured by ArianeGroup, as the rocket will now be succeeded by the upcoming Ariane 6 which is designed to be cheaper to launch.
ESA provided a highlight reel of the launch of the spacecraft, including the liftoff and some stunning footage of the rocket soaring up through the sky as well as reactions from the crowd watching from near the launch pad in French Guiana, which you can see here:
Or you can see video of the entire launch, including expert commentary and interviews with scientists and engineers who are working on the mission, plus coverage of the deployment of the solar panels and the first acquisition of signal from the spacecraft. That’s below:
JUICE will now spend the next eight years traveling toward Jupiter. It has already deployed its 10 solar panels into two cross shapes on either side of the spacecraft body, reaching a total width of 27 meters across. Next, during the first two and a half weeks of travel, it will gradually unfurl its antennae and instrument booms.
These include a 16-meter-long radar antenna and a 10.6-meter-long magnetometer boom which are necessary to hold sensitive instruments away from the spacecraft body to avoid interference from the craft’s electrical systems. There’s a video animation showing the various stages of the spacecraft deployment process to give you an idea of what that involves:
Credit: ESA / ATG medialab
“ESA, with its international partners, is on its way to Jupiter,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said in a statement following the launch. “Juice’s spectacular launch carries with it the vision and ambition of those who conceived the mission decades ago, the skill and passion of everyone who has built this incredible machine, the drive of our flight operations team, and the curiosity of the global science community. Together, we will keep pushing the boundaries of science and exploration in order to answer humankind’s biggest questions.”
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