The European Space Agency will launch a spacecraft to Jupiter in 2022, and it will reach the gas giant seven years later. But before that, the spacecraft will take a spirograph-like route around the inner solar system.
In June 2022, the JUpiter ICy moons Explorer spacecraft, also known as JUICE, will be launched into space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou in French Guiana to explore the habitable zone around Jupiter and study Jupiter’s planet and magnetosphere.
Before JUICE reaches Jupiter in October 2029 though, it will first do a sequence of flybys of Earth, Venus, Earth again, Mars, and then Earth one more time. This journey of orbiting the sun multiple times will last over seven years.
In its first orbit around the sun, its distance to the sun will decrease, resulting in an increase of JUICE’s speed, based on Kepler’s second law of planetary motion. After finishing the first solar orbit, Earth will catch up with JUICE in May 2023, and the spacecraft will be maneuvered to fly towards Venus. Since it’s falling in the direction to the sun, JUICE will speed up.
The probe’s path is highly contingent on planetary flybys, in which the planet is able to transfer orbital angular momentum to the spacecraft. JUICE won’t have enough fuel to fly directly to Jupiter, so these flybys will give JUICE the extra speed and push it needs.
After flying past Venus in October 2023, JUICE will rendezvous with Earth again in September 2024. In February 2025, it will fly past Mars, and then do a final flyby of Earth in November 2026 before embarking on its journey past the asteroids to Jupiter, where JUICE will insert itself into Jupiter’s orbit.
Check out the video of JUICE’s planned trajectory below.