Europe's JUICE Jupiter spacecraft arrives at spaceport ahead of April launch

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft being unpacked at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.
ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft being unpacked at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. (Image credit: ESA-CNES-Arianespace/Optique video du CSG/S. Martin)

The European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) spacecraft has arrived at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana for the final preparations for launch.

JUICE departed from Airbus facilities in Toulouse, France, on Feb. 9 and has been unpacked at Kourou spaceport. The 13,668-pound (6,200 kilograms) spacecraft will go through final checks and fueling ahead of launch on an Ariane 5 rocket.

The mission is scheduled to lift off on April 13, when it will embark on an eight-year voyage to Jupiter to observe its icy moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede.

Related: NASA spacecraft snaps gorgeous new photo of Jupiter's moons Io and Europa

The spacecraft carries 10 science payloads and will make 35 flybys of the moons, studying their magnetic fields and looking for clues about the conditions in their subsurface oceans and if these could potentially support life. 

JUICE will finally enter orbit around Ganymede in 2034 for the final part of its mission and become the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than our own. 

Once in space, JUICE will deploy huge solar arrays with a total area of 915 square feet (85 square meters), which will be needed to power the spacecraft while orbiting Jupiter at an average distance of 484 million miles (778 million kilometers) away from the sun

JUICE was selected by ESA as a flagship mission in 2012 as part of its Cosmic Vision program. NASA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Israel Space Agency also contributed to the mission. NASA, meanwhile, is working to ready its Europa Clipper mission for launch in 2024.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.