Monday, 23 January 2023

UniTrento participates in ESA's mission to Jupiter

The spacecraft has left for the space base of Kourou, French Guiana, in view of its launch

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The Italian Space Agency has announced that the European JUICE spacecraft has left for the space base of Kourou in French Guiana, in view of its launch in the second half of April. The spacecraft will reach the orbit of Jupiter in 2030 to study of the icy moons of the planet. The University of Trento is involved because it coordinates RIME, one of the three Italian instruments on board.

RIME (Radar for Icy Moon Exploration) is a subsurface radar optimized to penetrate the icy crust of Jupiter's moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto in search for water, an indication of possible life.

This is the first of ESA's major missions of the Cosmic Vision programme. The space radar, from which much is expected, was designed and developed by an international team of scientists led by Lorenzo Bruzzone, professor of the Department of Information Engineering and Computer Science (Disi) of the University of Trento. This instrument could lead to scientific breakthroughs because, for the first time, it will perform direct subsurface measurements up to a depth of 9 km with a resolution of about 30 m. Among the partners in the project coordinated by UniTrento are the Bruno Kessler Foundation (with the group led by Francesca Bovolo) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The launch, scheduled for April, will be broadcast in live streaming.

From the press release of the Italian Space Agency - ASI: "The JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer) spacecraft of the European Space Agency (ESA), with an important contribution of ASI, will leave Toulouse in a few days to reach the Kourou space center in French Guiana from where, in April, it will leave for Jupiter. JUICE's target, once it has reached the orbit of the giant gas planet in 2030, are its icy moons: Ganymede, Europa and Callisto.

Italy, through ASI and the national scientific community, is deeply involved in the mission as 3 of its instruments have been built under Italian leadership: the RIME radar, the JANUS camera system, the 3GM radio package.
Italy has also contributed significantly to the MAJIS (Moons and Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer) spectrometer, led by the French space agency CNES.

The instruments are the result of fruitful collaboration between the national scientific community and the Italian industry, but also of several international cooperation agreements between ASI and JPL/NASA, the German DLR, French CNES and the Israeli space agency, ISA.

JUICE will investigate the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life and how the Solar System works. The comparative study of the three satellites of Jupiter in a single mission will help scientists understand the causes of their diversity, which is influenced by Jupiter. JUICE will mainly try to understand if giant planets could be inhabited and, in particular, if life is possible for extended periods of time on Jupiter's icy satellites. 

"The Italian contribution to the JUICE mission and the instruments it will carry on board, - said Angelo Olivieri, ASI's delegate in the Steering Committee of JUICE - reflect the state of the art of science and technology. We are convinced that the joint efforts of these years will lead us to surprising results and will strengthen the leadership role that Italy has achieved in many areas of planetary exploration."

The organizations and universities that participated in the 4 instruments developed involving Italy are: INAF - the National Institute of Astrophysics (the Rome, Teramo and Padova departments), the University of Trento, Sapienza University of Rome, the University of Roma Tre, Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), the University of Bologna, the University of Rome-Tor Vergata, the Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources (IGG) of the NRC, the University of Naples- Parthenope, CISAS - University of Padova, Politecnico di Milano, the University of Salento.

The Italian instruments of JUICE:
RIME (Radar for Icy Moon Exploration) is a subsurface ice-penetrating radar to study the subsurface structure of the icy moons down to a depth of around nine kilometres with a vertical resolution of up to 30 m. The data collected by RIME, whose Principal Investigator is from the University of Trento, will be used and shared with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL);

JANUS (Jovis, Amorum ac Natorum Undique Scrutator) is an optical camera system that will study global, regional and local features and processes on the moons, as well as map the clouds of Jupiter. The high-resolution camera for the monitoring of the atmosphere of Jupiter and the study of its three icy moons in search for environments capable of supporting life was created by Leonardo in collaboration with the University of Naples Parthenope. The German agency DLR participated in the development of the camera through a bilateral agreement with ASI;

3GM (Gravity and Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons) is a radio package comprising KaT (Ka transponder) and USO (ultrastable oscillator), created in collaboration with the Israeli Space Agency (ISA). Its goal is to study the gravity field at Ganymede and the extent of the internal oceans on the icy moons. The 3GM experiment also includes a high-accuracy accelerometer (HAA) which is necessary to calibrate the spacecraft's internal dynamic disturbances, in particular due to propellant sloshing.

Italy is also deeply involved in the optical head of MAJIS (Moons and Jupiter Imaging Spectrometer), a hyper-spectral imaging spectrometer that will observe the features and constituents of the troposphere of Jupiter and characterize ices and minerals on the surface of icy moon. MAJIS, led by French scientists, is the result of a bilateral agreement between ASI and CNES.

The instruments were designed and developed in collaboration with the industrial sector, and in particular with Thales Alenia Space and Leonardo. The former was involved in the RIME instrument, the Ka-band transponder of 3GM and the HAA accelerometer. Leonardo led the creation of the JANUS instrument and the MAJIS optical head. Leonardo also built JUICE's solar panels, the largest ever made for an interplanetary mission."

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