Czech technology onboard ESA's mission to search for life on Jupiter

Here's where to watch today the live launch of the project to explore three of Jupiter's moons.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 13.04.2023 12:00:00 (updated on 13.04.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Update: The launch was scrubbed minutes before it was supposed to take place due to lightning risk. Another attempt will take place on April 14 at 2:14 p.m.

The European Space Agency is launching an ambitious mission to Jupiter today, and Czech technology is onboard.

If all goes well, the JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) probe will launch at 2:15 p.m. local time and people can watch live online and follow details over Twitter. The Ariane 5 launch vehicle will take off from ESA's space center in Kourou, French Guiana.

The spacecraft, which won’t reach Jupiter in July 2031, will study three of Jupiter's Galilean moons – Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa. These have oceans and might be capable of supporting life. In 2034, the JUICE will start to orbit Ganymede, making it the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than the Earth’s moon.

JUICE rocket on the launchpad. Photo: ESA, Facebook
JUICE rocket on the launchpad. Photo: ESA, Facebook

Czech technology has never traveled so far before

Projects and contracts worth CZK 160 million were implemented in Czechia, with contributions from the Czech Ministry of Education.

“Czech participation in the JUICE mission confirms that the Czech Republic has a strong place in pan-European cooperation in space research. Of the projects in which the Czech Republic participated so far, the hardware on the JUICE mission will fly the farthest,” Radka Wildová, director of the science and research section of the Ministry of Education, said in a press release.

The mission requires high-quality components that must function flawlessly in the inhospitable environment of space and the high radiation around Jupiter for many years without the possibility of any repair, she added.

Development of wave sensors

Two teams of Czech scientists from the Czech Academy of Science (AV ČR) worked on a device for researching radio and plasma waves in Jupiter's environment. The Radio and Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) instrument will help analyze electromagnetic waves in the magnetosphere of Jupiter and several of its moons.

Visualization of the JUICE prone in orbit. Photo: ESA, Twitter
Visualization of the JUICE prone in orbit. Photo: ESA, Twitter

A team from AV ČR’s Institute of Atmospheric Physics designed and built a multi-component electromagnetic wave analyzer for the RPWI instrument.

Scientists from this institute are also involved in the mission’s working groups and participated in the preparation of the research, which focuses on the electromagnetic detection of discharges and electromagnetic radiation in Ganymede's magnetosphere.

Power source for the RPWI. Photo: AV ČR
Power source for the RPWI. Photo: AV ČR

The development team from AV ČR’s Astronomical Institute ensured the delivery of a pair of specially designed power supplies with extremely low noise for the RPWI instrument. Scientists from the Astronomical Institute will also compare data from the JUICE mission to their own numerical models of how they expect the magnetosphere to behave.


Czech companies supplied parts and components

Several Czech companies helped to develop and produce components for the RPWI. Brno-based company G.L. Electronic contributed to the electromagnetic wave analyzer, while the companies Pragoboard from Prague and Gatema PCB from Boskovice produced printed circuit boards for the same device. The Czech Aerospace Research Centre provided quality control during the development and testing of the RPWI power source.

Czech companies also participated in the development of the probe itself. BD Sensors-CSRC Space Division from Kroměříž and G.L. Electronic supplied an electronic unit for the antenna that will ensure communication between the JUICE probe and Earth.

The Brno company Frentech Aerospace also supplied parts for the arm of the J-MAG magnetic field measuring instrument, the Nav Cam navigation camera, and the RIME subsurface radar antenna. Experts from AV ČR’s Institute of Instrumentation tested the thermal properties of a special coating for the JUICE probe. The companies 5M and Serenum participated in other deliveries.

ESA is an international organization focused on cooperation in space research and in the development of space technologies and their use in applications. The contribution of the Czech Ministry of Education to ESA programs in the field of research and development will reach EUR 14.2 million in 2023. The total contribution of the Czech Republic to ESA, including contributions from the Ministry of Transport, will reach EUR 61.8 million in 2023.

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