Artist's concept of ESA's Jupiter Icy Moons, or Juice, mission. Credit: Airbus

PARIS — The European Space Agency on Dec. 9 signed a contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the construction of ESA’s Juice – Jupiter Icy Moons – orbiter, scheduled for launch in 2022 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

The contract had been expected since ESA’s July decision to approve a contract valued at 350.8 million euros ($374 million) with Airbus after a competition with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy and OHB SE of Germany, which had submitted a joint bid.

Francois Auque, head of Airbus Space Systems, said Juice hardware will be produced as early as mid-2016, with the full contracting team from 60 companies lined up by 2017. Some 150 people will be working on the prime contractor’s project team at the program’s peak in 2017-2018, he said.

Juice will spend 7.5 years after launch making its way to the Jupiter system, where it will investigate the Europa, Ganymede and Callisto moons. Its mission is expected to last 3.5 years.

Juice is expected to weigh 5,500 kilograms at launch. It will be equipped with a 97-square-meter solar array.

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.