Due to bad weather, the mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) that will send, this Thursday, from French Guiana, a satellite that will study Jupiter and its three large moons that have the possibility of life has been suspended. The project involves Portuguese companies, scientists and engineers.
The departure from the ESA base in Kourou, where Portugal will be represented by the president of Portugal Space, Ricardo Conde, is scheduled for 1.15 pm (Portuguese time) aboard the European Ariane 5 rocket.
The project, which was supposed to be launched in 2022, has the aerospace engineer Bruno Sousa as the director of the flights and had an antenna engineer Luís Rolo in the tester of two of the ten satellites. Both have worked at ESA for over 10 years.
The film combines the products of the Portuguese companies LusoSpace, Active Space Technologies, Deimos Engenharia and FHP – Frezite High Performance and the instrument developed by Efacec and LIP – Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics, where the researcher Patrícia Gonçalves created it. .
Juice (Jupiter ICy moons Explorer, Explorer of the Icy Moons of Jupiter) will study the largest planet in the Solar System with the moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, where scientists believe that liquid water may exist (the most important element for life as we know it ) under on the ice.
The film should reach the gas giant eight years later, in July 2031, making 35 trips around the cold moon and reaching Ganymede in December 2034.
This will be the first time that an artificial satellite has orbited the moon of another planet.
It is expected that the ESA project, which cost about 1.6 billion euros and was coordinated by the North American (NASA), Japanese (JAXA) and Israeli (ISA) agencies in terms of equipment and hardware, will end in September. 2035.
The first scientific data is expected in 2032.
Jupiter is 11 times the size of Earth and is mostly gas, like the Sun. Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System and has a large ocean beneath it.
ESA’s mission was designed to find out if there is space around Jupiter and inside the moons with the necessary conditions (water, energy, stability and natural resources) to support life.
As director of flight operations, Bruno Sousa oversees the “critical phase” of the satellite’s launch, he supports a single team that he leads in making decisions so that the device enters the “flight phase”.
“My role as an air traffic controller, above all, is to help the team make difficult decisions and to take responsibility for the chosen route and monitor its performance”, said Lusa.
At the end of the launch, Bruno Sousa will leave the project and will continue to work on other ESA interplanetary projects in progress, which are based on Mercury (BepiColombo) and the Sun (Solar Orbiter).
Regarding the Juice satellite, the space engineer, who has been an employee of ESA since 2007, said that “he will be able to study Jupiter as an example of gas giants”, helping to “search for exoplanets” (planets outside the Solar System). ).
As challenges of the mission, Bruno Sousa pointed out the communication with the satellite and the production of energy, given the distance of Jupiter from the Earth and the Sun, and the radiation, which forced the installation of “a large part” of electronic equipment in the “vaults”.
In addition to shields that protect electronic devices from high radiation, solar panels for power generation and a layer of insulation against high temperatures, the satellite has an antenna to send data to Earth and a computer to solve other problems.
One antenna, the smaller of the two, has a thermal coating made by the Porto company FHP and its operating system was made by Active Space Technologies, based in Coimbra.
Luís Rolo, an antenna engineer, worked on some of the antennas for the Juice project. An employee of ESA for 18 years, he tested the antenna of the radio telescope that will look at the atmosphere of Jupiter, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto and the antenna of the radar probe that will allow, through the reception of signals, to determine the presence of subsurface water for three months .
Another instrument on the satellite, the radiation detector, which is a powerful detector, was developed by LIP and Efacec, in collaboration with the Norwegian company Ideas and the Swiss Research Institute Paul Scherrer.
Efacec has also been involved in the construction of a tool that will monitor the management of the satellite’s solar panels, with the aim of “optimizing energy for reaching Jupiter, where there is no sunlight”.
LusoSpace has created a coil that creates a magnetic field “that will be the reference” for the magnetometer, a device on the satellite that will show the magnetic field of Jupiter and its relationship with the moon Ganymede.
Deimos Engenharia’s mission was to “develop an autonomous propulsion system” during the Europa moon flight and “during the Ganymede mission”.
Currently, the only artificial satellite of Jupiter is NASA’s Juno.
Portugal has been a member of ESA since 2000.