Airbus To Build ESA’s Jupiter-bound Juice Orbiter

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PARIS — The European Space Agency on July 16 selected Airbus Defence and Space to build Europe’s Juice orbiter, to be launched in 2022 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket and to arrive at the Jupiter system in 2030.

The contract, for 350.8 million euros ($389 million) was approved by ESA’s Industrial Policy Committee and will be signed by ESA and Airbus in September. The Ariane 5 launch will be contracted separately by ESA.

Airbus bested a team composed of Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy and OHB SE of Germany, a frequent pairing for ESA competitions because it fills a hole in each company’s production-site premises.

ESA science missions are funded by mandatory contributions from the agency’s 22 member states, based on national gross domestic product. ESA’s geographic return rules mean work-share distribution must closely match each nation’s financial input, meaning Germany, France, Britain and Italy, as ESA’s biggest members, must be guarantee major pro rata roles for their domestic industry.

Airbus has major operations in France, Germany, Britain and Spain. Thales Alenia Space is focused on France and Italy, and OHB’s main facilities are in Germany.

With some exceptions, ESA’s member states finance science missions on their own, often with contributions from nations outside ESA. Juice will carry 10 instruments coming from 16 ESA members, and also from the United States and Japan.

The trajectory to Jupiter will include gravity-assist flybys of the Callisto and Ganymede moons, and two close-in flybys of the Europa moon. At the end of the mission, Juice is expected to spend eight months dedicated to the study of Ganymede.