European Space Agency in second launch attempt to Jupiter and its moons

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The European Space Agency will make a second attempt to launch after its mission to Jupiter and its moons was postponed as a result of unfavourable weather conditions.

The six-tonne probe, named Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer), was due to blast off on Thursday to the solar system’s biggest planet to see if its ocean-bearing moons support life.

But weather conditions showed there was a risk of lightning, temporarily pausing what would have been the agency’s first attempt to send spacecraft to orbit another planet’s moon.

(PA Graphics)

Ahead of the launch, the agency tweeted to say that the weather is looking good so far, with more updates to come.

Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, wished good luck to all the teams involved in the mission.

He tweeted: “We have waited for many years for #ESAJuice, and we will wait another eight before it reaches Jupiter.

“But the 24 hours between launch attempt 1 and launch attempt 2 feels like an eternity.

“Good luck to all the teams today, wishing us great weather for a healthy launch.”

After lift-off, Juice is expected to separate from the rocket about half an hour later, and embark on a 4.1 billion-mile journey that will take more than eight years.

Juice has 10 instruments on board, which will investigate whether the gas giant’s three moons – Callisto, Europa and Ganymede – can support life in its oceans.

Scientists from Imperial College London have led the development of one instrument, known as the magnetometer.

Called J-MAG, it will measure the characteristics of magnetic fields of Jupiter and Ganymede – the only moon known to produce its own magnetic field.

Engineers and mission controllers have very a short launch window – about one second long – to send the spacecraft on its journey.

This is because Venus and Earth need to be in the perfect position for Juice to perform a manoeuvre known as gravitational assist, where it will use the gravity of the planets to slingshot towards Jupiter.

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