Space – NASA gives sneak peek at Europa Clipper spacecraft build process
NASA has shared some behind-the-scenes images of its Europa Clipper spacecraft build process, detailing the work its team is doing as it prepares for the orbiter mission. The space agency describes the creation process as a “complex choreography,” detailing how labs and teams in many different regions are working together to construct the vessel.
The Europa Clipper’s main clean room where the spacecraft will be assembled is located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. However, various instruments and components are being built elsewhere by teams in the US and Europe, including at the Goddard Space Flight Center and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.
Europa Clipper is destined for Jupiter’s orbit, where it will conduct flybys of the massive planet’s moon Europa. NASA explains that Europa Clipper features a thick aluminum vault designed to protect the spacecraft from Jupiter’s radiation — a massive component that has been built at JPL and is almost finished.
The massive propulsion unit, meanwhile, recently made a trip from Goddard to Johns Hopkins so that experts can install various components, including the cabling, radios, antennas, and electronics. Assuming everything goes as planned, NASA anticipates the System Integration Review will take place around the end of this year.
Presently, the Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch in 2024. Once the spacecraft reaches Jupiter, it will enter the planet’s orbit and spend its time studying Europa, the icy moon with a huge internal ocean. Europa has been identified as a potential source of life beyond Earth, making it a key celestial body to investigate as part of that larger mission.