U.S.-built radar to probe oceans on Jupiter's icy moons
BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: February 27, 2013
NASA will provide key components for an ice-piercing radar aboard Europe's Jupiter orbiter, helping scientists resolve the thickness and internal structure of ice sheets covering the giant planet's moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Europe's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will launch in June 2022 and arrive in orbit at Jupiter in January 2030. After a complex series of flybys of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa, JUICE will reshape its trajectory and slip into orbit around Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon, in late 2032.
A dozen flybys of Callisto, the solar system's most cratered object, and two passes just above Europa are planned for JUICE's mission before the probe arrives in orbit at Ganymede.
NASA's participation in the radar instrument include construction and funding of the device's transmitter and receiver. The radar will be the first instrument to peer beneath the icy surfaces of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, which scientists believe harbor liquid water oceans deep beneath their ice sheets.
The radar payload is led by Italian scientists, and the radar's deployable antenna will be built in Italy.
The radar's principal investigator is Lorenzo Bruzzone of Universita degli Studi di Trento in Italy
The European Space Agency selected the JUICE mission in May 2012 after a three-way competition against a a proposed X-ray astrophysics observatory and a gravitational wave detection mission.
ESA announced the experiment selections for JUICE on Feb. 21.
The spacecraft will include at least 10 instruments, plus a radio science experiment using the probe's telemetry signals for research purposes.
The payloads will come from 15 European countries, along with contributions from the United States and Japan.
ESA's budget for the JUICE mission is 830 million euros, or nearly $1.1 billion. Financial commitments from the agency's member states and international partners will likely push the project's total cost to nearly $1.5 billion.
Russia is also prospective partner on the JUICE mission. As an extension of a deal to collaborate on Europe's ExoMars missions to the red planet, the Russian space agency proposed launching JUICE on a Proton rocket. The Jupiter orbiter is currently set to fly on an Ariane 5 launcher.
Russia is also interested in building a Ganymede lander to fly as a piggyback payload on JUICE, according to European scientists.
Here is a complete listing of JUICE's instrument payload: