NASA has approved a project to build instruments for a future European Space Agency mission to Jupiter and its moons, scheduled for launch in 2022.
"NASA's total cost for the project is $114.4 million," the US space agency said in a statement on Saturday.
Designed to investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants, the JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is scheduled to launch in five years, arriving at Jupiter in October 2029.
JUICE will spend almost four years studying Jupiter's giant magnetosphere, turbulent atmosphere, and its large icy moons Callisto, Ganymede and Europa, which are thought to have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts.
The agency-level approval for the project to enter building phase of instruments also provides a baseline for the mission's schedule and budget.
"We're pleased with the overall design of the instruments and we're ready to begin implementation," said Jim Green, Director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"In the very near future, JUICE will go from the drawing board to instrument building and then on to the launch pad in 2022," Green said.
JUICE is a large-class mission -- the first in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme carrying a suite of 10 science instruments.
NASA will provide the Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS), and will also provide subsystems and components for two additional instruments: the Particle Environment Package (PEP) and the Radar for Icy Moon Exploration (RIME) experiment.
The UVS was selected to observe the dynamics and atmospheric chemistry of the Jovian system, including its icy satellites and volcanic moon Io.
How will JUICE complement NASA's Europa Clipper multiple flyby mission, also scheduled to launch in the early 2020s?
"The missions are like close members of the same family. Together they will explore the entire Jovian system," said Curt Niebur, programme scientist at NASA Headquarters.
"Clipper is focused on Europa and determining its habitability. JUICE is looking for a broader understanding of how the entire group of Galilean satellites formed and evolved," Niebur said.
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