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Extreme Temperature Tests for the JUICE Mission

on 27 June 2018

JUICE, or the Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer, is ESA's future mission to explore Jupiter, the Solar System's largest planet and its ocean-bearing moons: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

Planned for launch in June 2022, JUICE will embark on a seven year cruise that will make use of several flybys – of Earth, Venus, Earth, Mars, and again Earth – before leaving the inner Solar System for Jupiter.

In order to ensure that the spacecraft will survive the extreme temperature variations it will experience along the journey, a thermal verification test was completed in May 2018, inside de Large Space Simulator at ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands.

The spacecraft model, wrapped in multi-layer insulation, is visible in the foreground of the image, while the high-energy lamps and mirrors of the Sun simulator can be seen in the upper part of the frame.

The Sun simulator was used to heat the Sun-facing side of the spacecraft model to around 200ºC. Meanwhile, the internal temperature of the vacuum chamber was lowered to -180ºC by thermal shrouds filled with liquid nitrogen to reproduce the cold conditions of the sides that will face away from the Sun.

This hot phase was followed by the cold phase, which simulated the low-temperature environment at Jupiter, by maintaining the frigid conditions inside the chamber and switching off the Sun simulation lamps.

The capacity to withstand extreme temperatures is only one of the criteria that the JUICE mission has to meet during its preparation phase. Another criterion refers to enduring the extreme radiation it will face throughout the duration of the mission. Its components and materials have to be carefully tested and selected and radiation shields must be developed. Some of the JUICE mission components will be tested against radiation in Romania.

The team of the LEOPARD Competence Centre (Laser-Plasma Acceleration of Particles for Radiation Hardness Testing) — financed through the Research, Development and Innovation STAR Programme, Technology Space and Advanced Research – is working on developing radiation testing methods for hardware and software components of space missions. In particular for the JUICE mission, the Centre is developing a test facility for electronic equipment.

Image credit: ESA