Behind the scenes of JUICE: how Solenix supports the mission

11 May 2023

After years of theoretical work, validation, and preparation, with the help of many partners, the moment we have been waiting for finally happened: JUICE launched on 14 April.

ESA’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice) started its journey on 14 April 2023 at 14:14 CEST from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Image credits: ESA

Solenix has been involved in this mission in many ways. With the JUICE launch being conducted in an entirely paperless fashion, all logging of the Mission Control Team (MCT) activities during the first phase and beyond are captured using our software Uberlog. This paperless approach streamlines the launch process and makes it easier to manage and track the activities of the MCT. With Uberlog, all necessary data is available at the fingertips of the team members, and the details of any issues that arise can be accessed quickly and efficiently by all parties.

Furthermore, the Solenix-maintained WebMUST software is widely used by many members of the project support team to perform offline telemetry analysis when investigating and troubleshooting spacecraft anomalies. The software allows team members to analyse data and identify potential issues, which can then be addressed before they become major problems.

And finally, once the first phase of the mission is completed, the spacecraft controllers will use the Solenix-maintained OPSWEB tool to visualise the scheduled ground station passes, relevant spacecraft activities, and flight dynamics events (such as ground stations’ visibility, eclipses, conjunctions, etc).

These tools are critical in ensuring the success of the mission, and they will play an important role in helping the spacecraft experts to manage and track activities, identify issues, and troubleshoot any anomalies that arise.

As a Spacecraft Operations Engineer in the Juice Flight Control Team (FCT), our colleague Steffen Bamfaste supported the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) activities, specifically as data handling and power subsystem engineer, in the main control room. His work in the operational preparation of the mission dates back to early 2019 though.

Since then, Steffen participated in various Integrated Ground/Space Functions Tests (IGST) and System Validation Tests (SVTs) as well as simulations campaigns. He was also responsible for the test and validation of different ground segment applications, including the Mission Control System (MCS).

In short, Steffen’s work, along with the one of the entire JUICE FCT, ensures that all systems are functioning as expected and that the spacecraft is performing optimally. All this to help the spacecraft being safely and efficiently maneuvered to its final destination.

Speaking about the mission, Steffen said:

“The work of the past few years will now pay off and be put into action. It feels like an achievement and a new beginning at the same time.

However, the journey to get here wasn't easy. The pandemic hit us all hard, and the challenges of conducting IGSTs and SVTs with remote support from all partners were many. We had to be creative and come up with new ways to tackle these challenges while ensuring the same level of rigor and quality in our work. We had to rely heavily on technology to keep us connected and communicate effectively.

Although this event may feel like the ultimate goal we were working towards, it's actually just the beginning. The real work starts now. On Sunday 16 April, we began commissioning activities on the different subsystems and instruments with 10 hour ground station passes every day for the coming two months. This phase is crucial to ensure that everything is working as planned and that we are ready for the long cruise to Jupiter and the important science phase that will follow the arrival.”

For all the scientists involved in this mission, the most interesting part begins only then. They will have the opportunity to analyse the data collected by the instruments and draw conclusions that will advance our understanding of the universe. It's an exciting time for everyone involved.

This event marked the beginning of a new chapter in our journey, and we are looking forward to see where it takes us.