Lightning in French Guiana has pushed back the launch of the European Space Agency’s JUICE mission.
The mission to explore Jupiter and its icy moons Ganymede, Europa and Callisto in unprecedented detail is now scheduled for a new launch attempt on April 14 at 12:14pm UTC (10:14pm AEST).
Even then, there is no guarantee the project will take off when scheduled. Despite having buffers built into its pre-launch sequence, the mission has a single, daily launch ‘instance’ rather than a window to set off.
That means, unlike NASA’s Artemis I, which was afforded hours at a time to set off on last year’s Moon mission, JUICE has a single second to push the ‘go’ button.
The reason comes down to – quite literally – the planets aligning. ESA has provided Arianespace, the organisation responsible for the rocket launch, with a single point in which to put JUICE into space.
“This is something we do very regularly when we need perfect alignment between the target destination and the launch vehicle,” says Ariane 5 Programme head Ruedeger Albat.
“For example, if you go to the ISS, you go with a launch instant. We’ve done this five times with [cargo] flights, but also others, so this is something which is not routine, but is which well-practiced procedure for Ariane 5.”
After its in-space deployment, JUICE will begin a series of gravity assisted slingshots towards Jupiter.
Following its first orbit around the Sun, it will then skirt past Earth and the Moon, Venus and two final Earth flybys. This will help preserve as much of the 3650kgs of fuel on board for its crucial manoeuvres around the Jovian system.
ESA has daily launch instances available until the end of April.
Originally published by Cosmos as JUICE launch scrubbed due to lightning worry, daily reattempts still available
Matthew Ward Agius
Matthew Agius is a science writer for Cosmos Magazine.
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