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The medium-gain antenna in JUICE

Artist’s impression of JUICE.

Artist’s impression of JUICE.

At the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK, SENER announced that it had been awarded the European Space Agency (ESA) contract to develop the medium-gain antenna for JUICE (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer), the ESA’s most important mission to explore Jupiter. The aim of the program, whose launch date is set for 2022, is to expand our knowledge of the complex interactions between Jupiter and its icy moons – Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede.

This will be the second piece of equipment that has been entrusted to SENER for JUICE, after the magnetometer boom. As a result of this new commission, SENER will execute the entire medium-gain antenna major assembly (MGAMA) that will back up the satellite’s main antenna (high-gain antenna, or HGA) in order to guarantee communication between JUICE and the Earth all times. The medium-gain antenna will comprise the swiveling reflector, the gimbal, and the control electronics, and will be tasked with analyzing, by means of a radio-frequency experiment (RSE), the characteristics of each one of the celestial bodies it will visit in the course of the mission, the moons of Ganymede, Callisto and Europa and the planet Jupiter, as well as the gravitational characteristics and composition of their atmosphere.

Some of the main challenges faced by SENER in JUICE include the extreme radiation conditions of Jupiter that will affect the antenna, as the device is located on the outside of the satellite. Moreover, the mission will have to contend with the high temperatures of Venus when it passes by the planet in order to achieve the gravity assist it needs to reach its final destination, as well as the frozen atmosphere of Jupiter.

The complete system of high- and medium-gain antennas of Solar Orbiter, the medium-gain antenna and the gimbal of the BepiColombo mission to Mercury, and the high-gain antenna gimbal for the Mars Curiosity Rover and Euclid, have provided SENER with the experience needed to undertake such a technically demanding project as JUICE.

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