The RIME Antenna, SpaceTech's contribution to the ESA JUICE mission, was tested on a glider airfield in Heiligenberg, not far from SpaceTech premises. RIME (Radar for Icy Moons Exploration) is an instrument which will investigate the geophysical structure of Jupiter's three largest icy moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The instrument is part of the JUICE satellite (short for JUpiter ICy moons Explorer) which is currently built by Airbus DS and will begin its journey to Jupiter in 2022, arriving there in 2029. Scientific goal of this mission is to search for liquid water below the ice sheets which cover the surfaces of the moons. Liquid water is considered the basis of life in the universe.
The highly sensitive RIME antenna, designed and built by SpaceTech, will enable the RIME Radar to penetrate the surface to a depth of up to 9 kilometers. It is made of ultralight CFRP material and will be folded multiple times to fit under the fairing of the launch vehicle. Once released in space, the antenna will unfold and assume its final length of approximately 16.6 meters. Thanks to SpaceTech’s innovative technological solution for the deployment mechanism, the total antenna mass amounts to less than 2 kg. Low mass is particularly important to save propellant on the long flight to Jupiter.
Before the flight to Jupiter, the antenna performance was now tested thoroughly on ground. The radar characteristics were measured during several helicopter flights, with a JUICE satellite mock-up including RIME Antenna suspended from a rope of 120 meters in lenght. For the measurements the antenna had to be held accurately in position, 150 meters above ground - not easy considering shear winds and the payload behaving like a large pendulum, But the experienced pilots mastered it perfectly and all measurements were completed as planned.
The video of the test campaign can be found in the Airbus Newsroom.
More information about the JUICE mission can be gathered on the ESA web site: http://sci.esa.int/juice/