Europa Clipper spacecraft in meeting section

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Clockwise from left: The propulsion module for NASA’s Europa Clipper is the primary physique of the spacecraft, which is nearing completion. Subsequent is the ultraviolet spectrograph, referred to as Europa-UVS. Europa-UVS will search above the floor for indicators of potential plumes that could be venting subsurface water into area. Then we see the large high-gain antenna , which is almost 10 ft (3 meters) huge. And eventually, an artist’s idea of Europa Clipper close to Jupiter and its satellite tv for pc Europa. Picture by way of NASA/JPL.

NASA/JPL-Caltech initially revealed this text on March 3, 2022.

Assembling the Europa Clipper

When it’s totally assembled, NASA’s Europa Clipper shall be as massive as an SUV with photo voltaic arrays lengthy sufficient to span a basketball courtroom: All the higher to assist energy the spacecraft throughout its journey to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. And nearly each element of the spacecraft can have been hand-crafted.

The meeting effort is already underway in clear rooms on the company’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Now, engineering parts and science devices are starting to stream in from throughout the nation and Europe. Earlier than 12 months’s finish, many of the flight {hardware} – together with a set of 9 science devices – is anticipated to be full.

The primary physique of the spacecraft is a big 10-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) propulsion module, designed and constructed by Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, with assist from NASA’s Goddard House Flight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland, and JPL. The module, fitted with electronics, radios, cabling and the propulsion subsystem, will ship to JPL this spring. Europa Clipper’s 10-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) high-gain antenna additionally shall be arriving on the lab quickly.

Europa Clipper Venture Supervisor Jan Chodas of JPL stated:

We’re transferring into the section the place we see the items all come collectively as a flight system. It will likely be very thrilling to see the {hardware}, the flight software program and the devices get built-in and examined. To me, it’s the subsequent degree of discovery. We’ll learn the way the system we designed will truly carry out.

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Exploring a watery world

Europa, which scientists are assured harbors an inner ocean with twice the quantity of water in Earth’s oceans mixed, could presently have situations appropriate for supporting life. Europa Clipper will orbit Jupiter and conduct a number of shut flybys of Europa to assemble information on the moon’s ambiance, floor and inside. Its refined payload will examine all the pieces from the depth and salinity of the ocean to the thickness of the ice crust to the traits of potential plumes that could be venting subsurface water into area.

The primary science instrument to be accomplished was delivered to JPL final week by a staff at Southwest Analysis Institute in San Antonio, Texas. The ultraviolet spectrograph, referred to as Europa-UVS, will search above the floor of Europa for indicators of plumes. The instrument collects ultraviolet gentle, then separates the wavelengths of that gentle to assist decide the composition of the moon’s floor and gases within the ambiance.

As every instrument arrives at JPL, will probably be built-in with the spacecraft and re-tested. Engineers have to be positive the devices can talk with the flight laptop, spacecraft software program and the facility subsystem.

As soon as all of the parts have been built-in to type the massive flight system, Europa Clipper will transfer to JPL’s monumental thermal vacuum chamber for testing that simulates the tough atmosphere of deep area. There additionally shall be intense vibration testing to make sure Europa Clipper can stand up to the jostling of launch. Then it’s off to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for an October 2024 launch.

A woman covered in white protective clothing manipulates hardware.
An engineer inspects the radio frequency (RF) panel of NASA’s Europa Clipper in a cleanroom on the Johns Hopkins Utilized Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Picture by way of NASA/JPL/ Johns Hopkins APL.

Seeing all of it come collectively

For the leaders of this mission, seeing the engineering parts come along with the fleet of devices shall be particularly transferring, figuring out how arduous their groups have pushed to work by the coronavirus pandemic.

JPL’s Robert Pappalardo, the Europa Clipper undertaking scientist, stated:

I don’t understand how I’ll really feel, seeing this come collectively. I believe will probably be considerably overwhelming. It’s occurring – it’s changing into actual. It’s changing into tangible.

On the identical time, the extent of problem kicks up a number of notches because the layers of the undertaking merge.

JPL’s Jordan Evans, the deputy undertaking supervisor, stated:

The entire parallel paths of {hardware} and software program improvement will begin to be part of collectively in a means that’s very seen to the staff. Everyone’s eyes flip towards the built-in system that’s coming collectively, which is thrilling.

Extra on the Europa Clipper mission

Missions reminiscent of Europa Clipper contribute to the sector of astrobiology, the interdisciplinary analysis on the variables and situations of distant worlds that might harbor life as we all know it. Whereas Europa Clipper just isn’t a life-detection mission, it would conduct detailed reconnaissance of Europa and examine whether or not the icy moon, with its subsurface ocean, has the potential to help life. Understanding Europa’s habitability will assist scientists higher perceive how life developed on Earth and the potential for locating life past our planet.

Managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, JPL leads the event of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with APL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Planetary Missions Program Workplace at NASA’s Marshall House Flight Middle in Huntsville, Alabama, executes program administration of the Europa Clipper mission.

Be taught extra about Europa.

Backside line: Science devices and different {hardware} for the Europa Clipper spacecraft will come collectively within the mission’s ultimate section earlier than a launch to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa in 2024.

Through NASA-JPL

Learn extra: Extra proof that Europa’s ocean is liveable

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