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The Register visits ESA’s JUICE spacecraft • The Register

Feature The European Space Agency’s (ESA) JUICE (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) spacecraft has kicked off electromagnetic testing in the Airbus Defence and Space cleanrooms in Toulouse.

The JUICE mission, which is due to launch on the very last Ariane 5 from French Guiana in April 2023, will spend nearly eight years cruising to Jupiter and a further three and a half years observing the Jupiter system. In 2034 it will become the first spacecraft to orbit a moon other than Earth’s own satellite as it drops into orbit around Ganymede for some close-up science.

The Register visited Airbus’s facility while the spacecraft was undergoing testing in the “quiet” room of the Toulouse site, the purpose being to check out any interference from the payload components. Visitors were therefore politely asked to surrender phones and anything that might interfere with the environment. We also had to wear protective gear to keep the spacecraft as squeaky clean as possible, although the end of the mission will see JUICE sent crashing into the surface of Ganymede to avoid any contamination reaching Europa.

The Airbus facility subjects spacecraft to all manner of torture, from vibration through to vacuum, and JUICE was not the only one being put through its paces. Others, including an upcoming MetOp meteorological satellite and an Inmarsat spacecraft, were also in various stages of construction and testing. However, lurking behind a door more befitting a supervillain’s lair was JUICE.

JUICE

Click to enlarge

Despite the cavernous testing room, the spacecraft was missing its solar arrays. Understandable, since at almost 100m² they are the largest ever built for an interplanetary spacecraft and wouldn’t fit. However, JUICE was otherwise complete, its instrument boom extended and supported by stands.

It has been a long journey to this point. The mission got the nod from ESA in 2012, as the first large-class mission in the agency’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme. Airbus was selected as the prime industrial contractor in 2015 with a contract award of €350.8 million (the Ariane 5 launcher was procured separately).

At the time of award, the expectation was that the spacecraft would launch in 2022. That didn’t work out.

Airbus’s Philippe Pham, Head of Earth Observation and Science, tells us the last few years were a challenge. “We had a few hiccups,” he says. “We had the pandemic issues across 2020 and 2021 and also some development issues with respect to some equipment and some instruments which led to late deliveries.”

“We agreed with ESA to shift the launch date to April 2023.”

“You cannot perform the tests without having a complete configuration. Now we are fully complete, which enabled us to… reproduce the launch sequence and also the lifetime of the mission.”

And it’s an impressive mission, with 10 instruments to study everything from Jupiter’s atmosphere to making remote observations of the surface of the three icy moons Callisto, Europa, and Ganymede.

Of the effort put into thus far and results expected, Cyril Cavel, JUICE project manager at Airbus, says: “It’s a career objective. Even before adoption by ESA there were many advanced studies as to how the concept would be like.

“So it all started in early 2000, and effectively the mission will run until 2035. After that, a bit like Cassini and Galileo, the science data will be used by scientists for many decades. So it’s really a 50 year-plus mission.”

As well as solar arrays large enough to keep JUICE juiced (pun intended) as it explores Jupiter and the three icy moons, the onboard computers must deal with lengthy communication times to Earth while also being capable of recovering from issues. “We have developed the spacecraft and the onboard software in particular to be able to detect failures, to isolate failures and to reconfigure them from failures,” explains Cavel.

Of course, there are lessons learned from previous missions. One anonymous ESA engineer jokingly referred to the mission as “Rosetta goes to Jupiter,” although ESA’s Senior Advisor for Science and Exploration, Mark McCaughrean, tells The Register that unlike Rosetta, a bit more was known about JUICE’s destination and the spacecraft lacked a lander.

He does, however, praise the scientific potential and notes it would be the first to focus on the moons and go into orbit around one, “with the aim of telling us much more about these worlds with icy crusts and liquid oceans.”

“It’s clearly a step on the road of more detailed studies of icy moons and their potentially very interesting sub-surface environments,” he says.

Joint operations are also planned with NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft, due for launch in 2024 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy for a 2030 arrival at Jupiter.

Pham highlights the lessons learned from other missions, such as the Mercury-bound BepiColombo (due to arrive at the end of 2025), before adding that Airbus had gained plenty of experience over the years thanks to other projects in the commercial, civilian, and defense sectors.

It is also preparing the next Sentinel-1 satellite, C, for launch in 2023 aboard a Vega-C. Sentinel-1B continues to suffer what Pham delicately referred to as an “anomaly.” Arianespace confirmed the contract award yesterday. Handy, because the Soyuz rockets used to launch Sentinel-1A and B are unlikely to be available any time soon.

And JUICE? “We will use the last Ariane 5 before the handover to Ariane 6,” says Pham. “It will be launched from Kourou on the fifth of April 2023.”

Shipment to the launch facility is expected during January 2023. ®



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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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