Kourou: The launch of the European Space Agency's JUICE mission to Jupiter's icy moons was postponed on Thursday for 24 hours due to bad weather, according to contractor Arianespace.

As lightning threatened, the delay was announced to the Jupiter control room in Kourou just minutes before the planned lift-off at 1215 GMT, as many people, including Belgium's King Philippe, were ready to watch the launch.

A few kilometres away, the Ariane 5 rocket was on its launch pad, prepared to blast off with its payload, the JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE).

The next attempt will now take place within 30 seconds of the same time on Friday, the European Space Agency said.

The unmanned, six-tonne spacecraft aims to embark on an eight-year journey through the Solar System to discover whether Jupiter's icy moons are capable of hosting extraterrestrial life in their vast, hidden oceans.

The mission will mark the first time Europe has sent a spacecraft into the outer Solar System, beyond Mars.

The launch of the 1.6 billion-euro ($1.7 billion) mission comes during a crisis for European space efforts, after Russia pulled its Soyuz rockets in response to sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

Combined with repeated delays to the next generation Ariane 6 rockets and the failure of Vega-C's first commercial flight last year, Europe is struggling to launch its missions into space.

Thursday will mark the penultimate launch for Ariane 5 before it is replaced by the Ariane 6.