Friday, 12 December 2014

Green light for the mission on Jupiter with the spatial radar engineered at UniTrento

Versione stampabile

The University of Trento and its space radar Rime will participate in the ESA mission aimed at finding traces of life in Jupiter’s frozen dunes. The European Space Agency granted its approval a few days ago.

Juice (JUpiter ICy moons Exlorer) is the first ESA great missions, amounting to approximately 1.1 billion euro, within the Cosmic Vision Programme.

Among the fundamental tools on JUICE is Rime - Radar for Icy Moon Exploration - a spatial radar engineered and studied by a team of international scientists coordinated by Professor  Lorenzo Bruzzone of the Department of Computer engineering and Information science of the University of Trento.

Rime paves the way to extraordinary discoveries, considering that it will perform for the first time direct observations under the frozen surface of the Europa, Ganimede and Callisto moons.

The implementation phase of the mission will lead, in 7 years, to the launch of the space shuttle. The decision was taken after 20 months of intense activity devoted to the optimisation of the mission planning, after the Juice selection which closed in February 2013, after a competition which lasted 5 years, marked different phases and head-to-head moments among the numerous proposals of scientific high-level proposals.

The next phases will involve the industrial stakeholders which will deal with the development of the satellite and support the scientists and engineers in the construction of the relevant tools.

The mission start is scheduled in 2022 with an Ariane 5 on the space base Kouruo, in French Guyana. The second European spacecraft in the Jupiter system is forecast in 2030 and the observations will last at least 3 years. Juice will move in Jupiter system following a complex mission profile taking the spacecraft to the exploration of the gas giant, Jupiter, and the Europa e Callisto moons, and finish its mission with the circular orbit around Ganimede.

After the historical missions Voyager and Galileo, Juice will be an outbreak in the scientific knowledge. The mission is aimed at analysing the various active processes of the Jupiter system, which are fundamental to understand what “liveability” conditions of Jupiter’s moons there were and are, in terms of elementary forms of life. Further, the functioning of the solar system and the necessary conditions to favour the birth of planets will be studied.

Italy and the Italian Space Agency play a fundamental role in the Juice mission, and the same is true for the University of Trento. In particular, the Laboratory of Remote sensing of the Department of Computer engineering and Information science of the University of Trento, coordinated by professor Lorenzo Bruzzone, plays a fundamental role.

Professor Bruzzone is the Principal Investigator of Rime - Radar for Icy Moon Exploration. It is radar sounder to measure from the space, hundreds kilometres away, what happens under the surface of the icy moon, down till 9 km depth. The tool is able to record very particular “images” from under the surface. They are fundamental to study the underground geology and geophysics of the icy moons and possibly detect the presence of water in the underground layers of Ganimede and Europa. The detection of water would be an extraordinary discovery, considering that water is one of the fundamental variables to think of traces of elementary forms of life on the icy moons.

Rime will be constructed in Italy, under the supervision of Professor Bruzzone, with some sub-systems provided by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which participates in the financing of the tool. The Rime working team includes researchers of the University of Trento and of the Bruno Kessler Foundation, together with some of the most prestigious Italian, European and US research centres in the sector.