JUICE launch to Jupiter: GALA diary from Kourou
Part 2 – JUICE flies! We have a mission!
After a minor setback on Thursday due to a launch scrub, the Ariane 5 rocket carrying JUICE performed a flawless launch on Friday at 14:14 CEST (09:14 local time). The spacecraft is now in contact with Earth and its solar panels are deployed.
The postponement meant a second day waking up at 05:30 'Kourou time'. At 06:00, we set out for a cosy bakery in the city centre, where we prepared ourselves for the day. Check-in for the bus transfer to the Ibis, Carapa and Toucan viewing platforms had become almost routine. The weather was much better on Friday; now and then, the Sun even managed to peek through the clouds, and the breeze was gentle. The weather status remained 'green', granting the mission the all-important green light.##markend##
The launch took place at 09:14 local time, precisely timed to the second so that the rocket could harness Earth’s momentum in exactly the right way for its planned trajectory. The launch was impressive. First, the main stage was powered up, which uses liquid propellant propulsion. The launch pad lit up brightly, clouds of water vapour rose. Then the main event began: the mighty solid fuel boosters (packed with a whopping 500 tonnes of fuel) ignited, and a blazing fireball lit up. The rocket quickly lifted off from the launch pad. Despite the daylight, we were dazzled, and the jungle glowed.
After a few seconds, the rocket reached the low-hanging clouds and unfortunately, we were unable to see the rest of the flight. Only at that moment did the sound from the launch site 13 kilometres away reach us: a deep, mighty rumble that made everything tremble. Everyone paused again, impressed! This launch 'soundtrack' stayed with us for a while – you could really hear the clouds roaring.
Destination Jupiter – here we come!
In the end, the JUICE launch was a smooth affair. The mood immediately became more and more relaxed, especially as further positive news transmitted from the mission’s control centre arrived on the large screens in Kourou. Everyone rejoiced: we have a mission!
Slowly, the crowd dispersed, and the appointments for the post-launch parties were made. Many thanks to all who have worked on this project over the past years and will continue to support us going forward. In particular, we think of our colleague Reinald, who sadly could not experience this moment with us.
Part 1 – Wednesday, 12 April 2023, 07:00 in Kourou, 12:00 in Berlin
The day before the big day: Tomorrow, the JUICE mission will launch towards Jupiter, and the DLR team will be there in Kourou! After a smooth journey via Paris, we arrived at the European spaceport in French Guiana last night. Now we are looking forward to the launch of the Ariane 5 rocket tomorrow morning at 09:15 local time (14:15 CEST). Our instruments GALA and JANUS will be sent to the Jupiter system on the JUICE spacecraft. geschickt.
We are a small group of engineers and researchers from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin who, together with other colleagues, have worked hard over the last few years to develop GALA from an idea into a space-qualified instrument.##markend##
Already at the airport we met many familiar faces behind the other JUICE instruments. Our Japanese GALA colleagues from the Japanese space agency, JAXA, were also there. Whereas in previous years we often met with serious faces to discuss problems that had arisen, the mood is now relaxed and full of anticipation. Everyone is as excited as little children before Christmas!
What will our day be like tomorrow? We’ll be up early and put on the appropriate work clothes...:
At around 06:30, we will set off in the direction of the Toucan and Carapa observation platforms. These are located on small mountains five and thirteen kilometres away from the launchpad respectively. This will put us at the launch site, but at a safe distance from which we will see the rocket rise above the jungle with a bright glow as it quickly gains altitude. The deep rumble of the rocket's engines will be heard by the onlookers after a delay of a few seconds.
If the clouds are not too thick, we will see the rocket rise further and further. After 2:16 minutes, the solid boosters will separate, followed by the separation of the upper stage from the main stage after 8:44 minutes. Almost 28 minutes after launch, and at an altitude of approximately 2000 kilometres, the JUICE spacecraft will finally separate from the upper stage. From then on, it will fly freely. The most important moments after that come another five minutes later, when the spacecraft makes its first independent radio contact with Earth, and the deployment of the huge solar panels, 17 minutes later.
If all this is successful, we have a mission – and can toast with a Ti' Punch or two, a local speciality ;-)
More about the launch of the Jupiter mission JUICE
You can follow the launch live on ESA WEB TV or on ESA's Livestram on YouTube. The launch is scheduled for 14:15 CEST – it’s best to tune in a little earlier! You can find more news and information on ESA´s JUICE mission Twitter channel, DLR's main channell and our own channel for the GALA instrument (@GALA_JUICE) – as long as we don't all lose our smartphones in the excitement!
By the way...
Anyone interested in DLR shirts, books and other merchandising will find what they are looking for at the Space Shop of the Social Services at DLR. The proceeds go to charity.