The spacecraft that the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch to explore Jupiter and its moons is now ready to be assembled. Its main objective is to determine if Jupiter's natural satellites have the right conditions to support alien life.

ESA's latest spacecraft is known as the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE). According to the agency, it recently arrived at the facility of its contractor Airbus Defense and Space in Germany for final integration.

Assembling The JUICE Spacecraft

Juno’s Latest Flyby of Jupiter Captures Two Massive Storms
This image of Jupiter’s turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed its most recent close flyby of the gas giant planet on Dec. 21, 2018. This new perspective captures the notable Great Red Spot, as well as a massive storm called Oval BA. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. The Great Red Spot, which is about twice as wide as Oval BA, may have formed from the same process centuries ago. Juno captured Oval BA in another image earlier on in the mission on Feb. 7, 2018. The turbulent regions around, and even the shape of, the storm have significantly changed since then. Oval BA further transformed in recent months, changing color from reddish to a more uniform white. Juno took the three images used to produce this color-enhanced view on Dec. 21, between 9:32 a.m. PST (12:32 p.m. EST) and 9:42 a.m. PST (12:42 p.m. EST). At the time the images were taken, the spacecraft was between approximately 23,800 miles (38,300 kilometers) to 34,500 miles (55,500 kilometers) from the planet’s cloud tops above southern latitudes spanning 49.15 to 59.59 degrees. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

Development of JUICE began in 2015 after Airbus was selected by the ESA to handle the spacecraft's design and construction. As part of the integration process, the spacecraft will be fitted with its various components.

Some of these include its communication systems, navigation sensors and on-board computers. Once it has been fully assembled, JUICE will be taken to ESA's Space Technology and Research Center in the Netherlands for testing.

JUICE's Journey To Jupiter

europa

JUICE is scheduled to launch in June of 2022 through the Ariane 5 rocket. Its main objective is to visit and study Jupiter's moons Ganymede, Callisto and Europa. According to the ESA, it will take about severs years for JUICE to reach its targets.

In order to reach Jupiter and its moons, the ESA will execute multiple slingshot manoeuvres on Earth, Venus and Mars. The ESA believes using the gravitational forces of these planets will put JUICE on the right trajectory to Jupiter.

The Hunt For Alien Life

These three moons of Jupiter were specifically selected for the mission due to their environmental conditions. Scientists believe these natural satellites have the right conditions to host liquid water or oceans. Through the JUICE spacecraft, the ESA is looking to analyze the composition of the oceans on Jupiter's moons. The agency will try to determine if these oceans contain traces of alien lifeforms.

"Expected to set out for its seven-year cruise to Jupiter in 2022, JUICE will carry 10 scientific instruments for detailed inspection of the largest planet of the Solar System and its moons, including Ganymede, Europa and Callisto, which are believed to host oceans of water," the ESA explained in a statement. "During its planned three-year mission, the spacecraft is expected to answer the question whether the oceans of the icy moons host any forms of life."