Contribution of PRIDE VLBI products to the joint JUICE-Europa Clipper moons’ ephemerides solution

M. S. Fayolle*, D. Dirkx, G. Cimo, L. I. Gurvits, V. Lainey, P. N.A.M. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In the coming decade, JUICE and Europa Clipper radio-science will yield the most accurate estimation to date of the Galilean moons’ physical parameters and ephemerides. JUICE's PRIDE (Planetary Radio Interferometry and Doppler Experiment) will help achieve such a solution by providing VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) observations of the spacecraft's lateral position, complementing nominal radio-science measurements. In this paper, we quantify how PRIDE VLBI can contribute to the moons’ ephemerides determination, in terms of attainable solution improvement and validation opportunities. To this end, we simulated VLBI data for JUICE, but also investigated the possibility to perform simultaneous tracking of JUICE and Europa Clipper, thus ultimately generating both single- and dual-spacecraft VLBI. We considered various tracking and data quality scenarios for both VLBI types, and compared the formal uncertainties provided by covariance analyses with and without VLBI. These analyses were performed for both global and local (i.e. per-flyby) estimations of the moons’ states, as eventually achieving a global solution first requires proceeding arc-per-arc. We showed that both single- and multi-spacecraft VLBI measurements only bring limited improvement to the global state estimation, but significantly contribute to the moons’ normal points (i.e. local states at flyby times), most notably in the out-of-plane direction. Additionally, we designed a validation plan exploiting PRIDE VLBI to progressively validate the classical radio-science solution, whose robustness and statistical realism is sensitive to modelling inconsistencies. By improving the local state estimations and offering various validation opportunities, PRIDE will be invaluable in overcoming possible dynamical challenges. It can therefore play a key role in reconstructing a global solution for the Galilean moons’ dynamics with the uncertainty levels promised by JUICE-Europa Clipper analyses. This, in turn, is critical to the accurate characterisation of tidal dissipation in the Jovian system, holding the key to the long-term evolution of the Galilean moons.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116101
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Dynamics
  • Jupiter
  • Orbit determination
  • Satellites


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