Seven months after the announcement that the JUICE mission had been formally adopted by ESA (November 2014), and the Invitation to Tender (ITT) released to the prospective contractors in December, we learned last week that Airbus Defence and Space (@AirbusDS) has been chosen by ESA's Industrial Policy Committee to build our ride to the jovian system. The selection of an industrial contractor is making the whole process feel so much more real, and Airbus is expected to sign the contract in September. That means that work could start as early as the end of the month.
Airbus DS is "the world's second largest space company," with sites around Europe in Toulouse (France), Friedrichshafen (Germany), Stevenage (UK) and Madrid (Spain). They're very well known in planetary exploration, having built Venus and Mars Express, Huygens for Titan and the Rosetta spacecraft. Today they're building ExoMars, BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter, so with that heritage they seem like a great choice to me. Building the 5-tonne JUICE spacecraft will be a challenge, with its 97 square metres of solar panels to provide the juice for JUICE out at 5AU, and the requirements for an unprecedented level of magnetic cleanliness to prevent any problems with the sophisticated payload suite.
Airbus DS won the €350M contract ($389M) after a competition with a team composed of Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy and OHB SE of Germany. From ESA: "The contract covers the industrial activities for the design, development, integration, test, launch campaign, and in-space commissioning of the spacecraft. The Ariane 5 launch is not included and will be procured later from Arianespace."
From spacenews: "ESA’s geographic return rules mean work-share distribution must closely match each nation’s financial input, meaning Germany, France, Britain and Italy, as ESA’s biggest members, must be guarantee major pro rata roles for their domestic industry." That means the the individual ESA member states must get out what they put in, so everyone will hopefully get a slice of the JUICE pie...
Read ESA's press release here and Airbus' release here.