Last year ESA decided to commit to one of the largest projects in planetary exploration, JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE), a decision which was based on four years of preparatory studies. Now ESA has chosen eleven instrument consortia which will be included on board the spacecraft, a research spacecraft which will cost about 830 million Euros to build and send to Jupiter. The participating countries will fund the additional cost of building the instruments. In Sweden’s case IRF has received funding from the Swedish National Space Board to develop its instruments.

JUICE as a whole will carry out an exhaustive investigation of the complicated Jupiter system, concentrating on the three Galilean moons (Ganymede, Europa and Callisto) which are assumed to have oceans under their icy surfaces. The aim is to investigate whether life might exist in these oceans.

The instrument package PEP from Kiruna will measure what types of particles there are around Jupiter and its moons to find out how the space environment in Jupiter’s enormous magnetosphere functions. RPWI measures electrical and magnetic fields in the magnetosphere in order to map waves in the space plasma and thus come to conclusions about the ionospheres and extremely thin atmospheres (so-called exospheres) of the moons of Jupiter. By investigating currents which may couple inductively to the seas under the ice RPWI will contribute to JUICE’s aim of helping us detect life on the icy moons.

“IRF has just got two Olympic gold medals in space research on Europe’s largest flag-ship to the outer solar system!” says Jan-Erik Wahlund. “It’s like leading Columbus’ first journey, except that it goes to Jupiter’s giant moons with seas under the ice. We are writing history.”

“This is IRF’s largest-ever project,” says Stas Barabash. “That ESA chooses two Swedish-led instrument packages for a mission of such scientific significance shows how competitive Sweden is in this area. PEP won out over proposals from the United Kingdom, USA, Italy and France.”

IRF’s Director, Lars Eliasson, was also glad when he learnt that IRF’s two instruments had been chosen, and described how it was at a meeting with ESA in 2005 that he became convinced that it was important to concentrate on a mission to Jupiter. He says, “It was obviously a few years ago now, but my guess was right that there would be an ESA mission to Jupiter, that it was the right project for IRF to concentrate on and that we are good enough to be included in it.”

Picture: JUICE at Jupiter (Artist’s impression: ESA)

More information:
Stas Barabash, IRF Kiruna, tel. +46-980-79122, stas@irf.se
Jan-Erik Wahlund, IRF Uppsala, tel. +46-18-471 5946, jwe@irfu.se
Johan Köhler, Swedish National Space Board, tel. +46-8-627 6493, johan.kohler@snsb.se