On April 14th, 2023 at 14:15 Hungarian time, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission’s spacecraft was launched on an Ariane 5 launcher from the European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. The power supply of the JUICE PEP, one of the spacecraft’s main instruments, was developed by the Space Technology Group of the ELKH Centre for Energy Research (EK-CER) in collaboration with SGF Kft., which manufactures the Electrical Ground Support Equipment (EGSE). According to plans, the JUICE spacecraft will enter orbit around Jupiter in 2031 after an almost 8-year journey, using the gravitational assistance of the Earth and Venus. It will then perform detailed observations of Jupiter and its three large, ocean-bearing moons, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa, using remote sensing, geophysical, and other instruments. During the mission, JUICE will study Jupiter’s complex environment, its moons, and the wider Jupiter system in more detail than ever before. Additionally, it will search for possible signs of life.
In the JUICE mission, initiated in 2005, the development of the instruments began in 2013. The design process has been carried out corresponding to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) strict requirements to ensure decades of space operation. The JUICE PEP instrument, powered by the power supply developed made by the EK-CER Space Technology Group participating in the mission, will investigate the particle environment and magnetosphere of Jupiter and its moons. EK-CER has participated in several space research projects, such as the NASA Artemis program, where the Orion spacecraft was launched on its lunar journey on November 16, 2022, with an EK-CER-developed dosimeter on board.
At the event held on April 5, 2023 about the JUICE mission, representatives from the EK-CER and its collaborating partners, the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (CSFK) and Wigner Research Centre for Physics (Wigner RCP), both belonging to ELKH, presented their roles in the mission. The Astronomical Institute of CSFK is using signals of distant quasars and measurements by Earth-based radio telescope networks to refine the position of the JUICE spacecraft in the Planetary Radio Interferometer & Doppler Experiment (PRIDE) experiment, thereby assisting in the study of the gravitational field and interior structure of the icy moons. Members of the CSFK research team include Dr. Sándor Frey, Dr. Judit Fogasy, and Dr. Krisztina Perger.
According to the plans, Wigner RCP will participate in the processing and interpretation of the magnetometer data, by which it may contribute to a better understanding of the Jupiter’s magnetosphere, the study of Ganymede, the only moon in the solar system with its own magnetic field, and the exploration of the secrets of the icy moons. The members of the Wigner RCP team are: Dr. Zsófia Bebesi, Dr. Zoltán Németh, and Dr. Andrea Opitz.
At the event, Dr. Orsolya Ferencz, the Ministerial Commissioner for Space Research, stated that it is worthwhile for Hungary to participate in European ESA space missions, as it provides the opportunity for Hungarian space sector participants to join projects such as JUICE.
Dr. Ákos Horváth, the Director General of EK-CER emphasized that EK-CER is one of the oldest research institutions in the country involved in space research, and has participated in numerous space research projects in the past. The most well-known area of such research is space radiation measurement. Radiation measurement instruments developed at EK-CER can be found, among others, on the International Space Station.
The Hungarian contributors to the JUICE mission are supported by the Department for Space Activities of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.