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Updated April 17, 2023

JUICE's orbital waltz to Jupiter

JUICE's orbital waltz to Jupiter

Image: The JUICE probe was launched by an Ariane 5 rocket on April 14, 2023. This is the penultimate mission of this launcher, replaced at the end of 2023 by Ariane 6. The journey will take approximately eight years, with an expected arrival in the Jovian system in July 2031. The journey will be perilous. During this trip, gravity will be a capricious ally because the risks of missing the target will be great. Jupiter's enormous gravity will help steer the spacecraft into orbit around the solar system's largest moon, Ganymede. If all goes well, JUICE will perform a record 35 overflights of Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Credit ESO.

A risky journey for the JUICE probe to Jupiter

JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) left for Jupiter on April 14, 2023 but the journey will not be easy and above all it will be long, more than 8 years.
The journey will not be in a straight line to Jupiter.
If the JUICE probe were to travel directly in a straight line to Jupiter without using gravitational maneuvers, it would not be able to reach the giant planet.
The trip would be impossible as it would require a considerable amount of fuel which the probe is not able to carry for this direct straight line trip to Jupiter. This is why the JUICE mission uses a series of gravitational maneuvers around the inner planets of the solar system in order to reach Jupiter in about 7 years. This is called gravitational assistance. This gravitational waltz will allow the probe to save a lot of energy and to precisely adjust its trajectory.

Before leaving for Jupiter, the probe will have to make several gravitational maneuvers around the inner planets of the solar system and even follow paths contrary to the direction towards Jupiter.

After its launch in 2023 from Kourou in French Guiana, the JUICE probe will make a Moon-Earth flyby in August 2024.
This first gravitational maneuver will modify its trajectory to orient itself towards Venus, which it will fly over in August 2025. Near Venus the probe will perform a second gravitational maneuver that will bring it closer to Earth again in September 2026.

After four gravity assist maneuvers around Earth and Venus, the spacecraft will head towards the outer Solar System and reach Jupiter in 2031. Once the JUICE probe reaches Jupiter, it will perform a braking maneuver to orbit the gaseous planet.

A period of adjustment of its orbit will be necessary.
The JUICE probe will then perform close flybys of Jupiter's moons (Callisto, Europa, Ganymede) until November 2034. It will orbit at an altitude of 400 km around Ganymede from December 2034 to September 2035.

After making its scientific observations around the moons of Jupiter, the JUICE probe will have to leave the Jovian system.
The JUICE mission did not plan to return to Earth.
After exploring Jupiter and its moons, JUICE will likely be placed in orbit around the Sun.

According to mission plans, the JUICE probe is expected to travel approximately 7.5 billion kilometers during its mission.

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