Airbus has signed a $384 million contract with the European Space Agency to build a spacecraft to explore the moons of Jupiter.
ESA said in July it would use Airbus as its main contractor on JUICE, the Jupiter icy moons explorer targeted for a 2022 launch. Toulouse, France-based Airbus Defense and Space announced the signing of an agreement with the agency Dec. 9.
The 5 1/2-ton probe is expected to launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from Arianspace. It will set off initially on a 7 1/2-year cruise to take it beyond Venus and Mars. Then, once reaching orbit around Jupiter, JUICE will spend 3 1/2 years before moving on to the icy moon of Ganymede and perhaps one or more others of Jupiter’s four moons.
“Building on the expertise we developed on our sites in Toulouse, Friedrichshafen (Germany), Stevenage (UK) and Madrid (Spain), the Airbus Defense and Space project team is now running at full speed, and the first equipment is expected for delivery in summer 2016,” said François Auque, head of space systems at the Airbus division.
“The selection of subcontractors has started and will be completed by 2017, and we will be prime contractor for an industrial consortium of more than 60 European companies,” Auque added. “When the project reaches its peak activity around 2017-2018, up to 150 people will be working in the prime project team.”