NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California has received a main body of the Europa Clipper spacecraft ahead of its much-anticipated mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa in 2024.
JPL this week shared a time-lapse video (below) showing the main body of the Europa Clipper arriving at its facility from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, which developed the spacecraft’s body in collaboration with JPL and the Goddard Space Flight Center designed by NASA.
One step closer to exploring the icy world of Europe. ❄️
The main part of @NASA‘s @EuropaClipper Spacecraft was delivered to JPL by @JHUAPL. It will undergo final assembly and testing ahead of its scheduled launch in 2024 to Jupiter’s icy moon. https://t.co/NpOsDbQl2Q pic.twitter.com/LYpgJ6BUSm
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) June 7, 2022
Jordan Evans, the mission’s project manager at JPL, commented on the component’s arrival: said: “It is an exciting time for the whole project team and a big milestone. This delivery brings us one step closer to the launch and scientific investigation of Europa Clipper.”
The spacecraft is now undergoing final assembly and testing ahead of a space mission that will attempt to learn more about Europa and find out if the liquid water thought to exist beneath its icy crust has the potential to host life.
The body of the Europa Clipper – consisting of an aluminum cylinder containing electronics, radio equipment, thermal loops, cables and the propulsion system – is 10 feet (3 meters) high and 5 feet (1.5 meters) wide.
JPL says the spacecraft will be “as big as an SUV” with its solar arrays and other deployable equipment packaged for launch. However, once fully deployed, the spacecraft’s solar arrays will reach the size of a basketball court, making it the largest NASA spacecraft ever built for a planetary mission.
When the Europa Clipper reaches its destination, it will complete nearly 50 flybys of Jupiter’s moon Europa, which scientists believe contains an inner ocean containing twice as much water as all of Earth’s oceans.
Nine science instruments on board the spacecraft will work to collect data about Europa’s atmosphere, surface and interior, hoping to give scientists enough information to determine if any form of aquatic life might exist beneath the ice.
NASA plans to launch the Europa Clipper on a three-booster SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which has only been deployed three times to date. The spacecraft will begin its explorations when it reaches the far-flung place in 2030.
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