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Tow Infinity and Beyond: MasterMover Propels Global Space Missions

ESA JUICE explorer moved using MasterMover electric tug

Whether it’s the movement of rocket launchers, instrument units, or other sensitive components, our powered electric tuggers allow for the precise positioning of loads across manufacturing and spaceport facilities. In this blog, we outline some of the recent projects where MasterMover electric tuggers have been relied upon to facilitate the pinpoint positioning and safe movement of loads in some of the world's most significant space projects.

Exploring Jupiter with the JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) 

In 2023, the most ambitious mission to explore one of the most enigmatic bodies in our solar system, the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE), got underway. JUICE, the first spacecraft to ever orbit a moon other than our own, is the culmination of efforts from more than 80 companies and research institutes across the world.

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) was launched on the Ariane 5 on April 13, 2023, and is the first mission to study Ganymede and the other icy moons in detail. We’ve provided a number of our pedestrian-operated tuggers to support the manufacture and transport of components and equipment used within the JUICE project.

Precise Positioning with Compact Electric Tugs 

MasterMover  tuggers are used to safely position high-value equipment throughout the project’s production process, most notably in transferring the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.  

Juice_transfers_to_fuelling_facility0-(1)-1_Airbus (1)Photo Credit: ESA

Electric powered tuggers provide safe, emission-free operation that deliver maximum load security, enabling operators to move high-value and sensitive loads with complete control, making them ideal solutions for the space industry. With a scalable design, powered tugs can be used to safely move multiple loads within the weight range throughout a single facility. For this project, multiple pieces of equipment are fitted with our couplings to enable the safe and controlled movement of heavy, sensitive loads.

MasterTug Range is the Ideal Solution for Stellar Control

The JUICE project relied on a range of our pedestrian tuggers at various stages of development and production. Following its arrival from Toulouse, France in February 2023, our cart tuggers were used to maneuver JUICE from the Payload Preparation Facility to the Hazardous Processing Facility, where the fueling of the spacecraft takes place. With a dry mass (without fuel) of 5,335 lbs, JUICE is fueled with approximately 7,716 lbs of fuel, a process which takes around ten days. The sensitivity of components and the need for complete load security and precise maneuverability make our compact tugger machines the ideal solution to move the equipment with total control.

Juice unpackingPhoto Credit: Airbus

With a compact design, our MasterTug MT2000+ enables the seamless and controlled movement of JUICE throughout the facility—allowing operators to navigate through tight corridors with confidence. Part of our best-in-class MasterTug range, the MT2000+ is a pedestrian-operated tugger that can move loads up to 44,000 lbs with pinpoint accuracy, making it the ideal solution for moving high-value and sensitive loads in the space and defense industry.

The Journey to Jupiter 

The Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer will make detailed observations of Jupiter and its three largest moons, including Callisto, Europa, and particularly Ganymede. It will take over seven years to reach Jupiter and spend around three years studying the icy moons.

JUICE is equipped with a suite of advanced scientific instruments that will provide unprecedented insights into the geology, composition, and habitability of Jupiter. Among its many scientific objectives, JUICE aims to investigate Jupiter’s complex environment to understand if it has ever held or could hold life, while also studying Jupiter’s system as a model for gas giants throughout the universe.

The JUICE mission was also the last mission to launch on the Ariane 5 in Kourou, French Guiana before being superseded by the highly anticipated Ariane 6 launcher.

Video Credit: Airbus & ESA

Supporting the Next Generation of Launcher – Ariane 6 

The new Ariane 6 will have the flexibility to launch a variety of payloads to a range of orbits for various applications such as Earth observation, telecommunications, meteorology, science, and navigation. Set to launch in 2024, the next-generation space launcher is being developed on behalf of the European Space Agency by ArianeSpace—a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. A pioneer in spacecraft solutions and space launchers, ArianeSpace aims to realize new levels of efficiency and flexibility through the creation of the Ariane 6 launcher.

Tugger Applications Across Facilities 

At over 60 metres tall and weighing almost 900 tonnes with a full payload, the Ariane 6 launcher project utilises MasterMover electric tuggers to move large, heavy components around the launch vehicle assembly building in a safe and efficient way.

MasterMover tuggers have been used throughout the Ariane 6 project since 2015 as production of the launcher has progressed. A number of machines are being used to move equipment and materials associated with the Ariane 6 launcher throughout the launch vehicle assembly processes in French Guiana.  

Safe Control with MasterMover 

MasterMover powered tuggers enable safe, secure and reliable load moving, perfectly suited to moving sensitive loads in spaceports, launch locations and development facilities. With a compact design, operators can manoeuvre loads with confidence, enabling the precise positioning of loads and the reduced risk of damage during movement. 

One process where our electric tow tuggers are being used on the project is in the positioning of access and transport equipment. Our MasterTow TOW1000 connects to loads in a simple and secure manner through a tow pin connection. The simplicity of its connection means it can be used to tow a range of equipment from mobile platforms and integration docks.

ArianeSpace Ariane 6
Photo Credit: ArianeSpace

The design of our electric tow tugs maximizes visibility, allowing operators to move large loads with confidence. On the Ariane 6 launcher project, the TOW1000 is also used to manoeuvre fairing, fairing shells and strongback frames – large loads standing up to 20m tall.  

"With employee safety and protection of assets at the forefront of our minds, we are proud to be providing exciting exploration projects with equipment that can help them to achieve their goals while also ensuring a safe working environment," said Andy Owen, President at MasterMover Inc.  

Andy continued: “MasterMover's products are used in a variety of industries including space, aerospace, defense, manufacturing, logistics, mining and steel. Our products use innovative technology to ensure loads can be moved with great manoeuvrability and precision - ideal for large, awkward or heavy loads like the ones seen in the Ariane 6 project. We're honored to be playing a part in such an important project."  

Handling Solutions for Specialist Environments 

Our electric tugger machines are ideal for use in sensitive environments such as spaceports and cleanrooms. They are safe to operate and emit zero emissions, making them perfect for use in areas with strict environmental regulations. For regulated environments such as potentially explosive zones or cleanrooms, specialist solutions are available, including converted machines to meet ATEX/IECEx standards and high-grade stainless steel tugs. 

MasterMover's products are trusted by high-profile global clients in space, aerospace and defence industries to provide the precise and safe movement of loads. 


Ready to Optimize your Operations?

Are you looking to improve safety, control or efficiency in your operations? Contact us to discover how you could transform your processes to enhance efficiency and maximize workplace safety with an electric tugger.