24/7 Space News
NASA's Europa probe gets a hotline to Earth
Engineers and technicians install Europa Clipper's high-gain antenna in the main clean room at JPL. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Europa probe gets a hotline to Earth
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Aug 16, 2023

The addition of a high-gain antenna will enable the agency's Europa Clipper spacecraft - set to launch in October 2024 - to communicate with mission controllers hundreds of millions of miles away. NASA's Europa Clipper is designed to seek out conditions suitable for life on an ice-covered moon of Jupiter. On Aug. 14, the spacecraft received a piece of hardware central to that quest: the massive dish-shaped high-gain antenna.

Stretching 10 feet (3 meters) across the spacecraft's body, the high-gain antenna is the largest and most prominent of a suite of antennas on Europa Clipper. The spacecraft will need it as it investigates the ice-cloaked moon that it's named after, Europa, some 444 million miles (715 million kilometers) from Earth. A major mission goal is to learn more about the moon's subsurface ocean, which might harbor a habitable environment.

Once the spacecraft reaches Jupiter, the antenna's radio beam will be narrowly directed toward Earth. Creating that narrow, concentrated beam is what high-gain antennas are all about. The name refers to the antenna's ability to focus power, allowing the spacecraft to transmit high-powered signals back to NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth. That will mean a torrent of science data at a high rate of transmission.

The precision-engineered dish was attached to the spacecraft in carefully choreographed stages over the course of several hours in a Spacecraft Assembly Facility bay at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "The antenna has successfully completed all of its stand-alone testing," said Matthew Bray a few days before the antenna was installed. "As the spacecraft completes its final testing, radio signals will be looped back through the antenna via a special cap, verifying that the telecom signal paths are functional."

Based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, Bray is the designer and lead engineer for the high-gain antenna, which he began working on 2014. It's been quite a journey for Bray, and for the antenna.

Just over the past year, he's seen the antenna crisscross the country in the lead-up to the installation. Its ability to beam data precisely was tested twice in 2022 at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Between those two visits, the antenna made a stop at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for vibration and thermal vacuum testing to see if it could handle the shaking of launch and the extreme temperatures of outer space.

Then it was on to JPL in October 2022 for installation on the spacecraft in preparation for shipment next year to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The long journey to Jupiter begins with launch from Kennedy in October 2024.

Europa in Their Sights
"The high-gain antenna is a critical piece in the buildup of Europa Clipper," said Jordan Evans, the Clipper project manager at JPL. "It represents a very visible piece of hardware that provides the capability that the spacecraft needs to send the science data back from Europa. Not only does it look like a spacecraft now that it has the big antenna, but it's ready for its upcoming critical tests as we progress towards launch."

The spacecraft will train nine science instruments on Europa, all producing large amounts of rich data: high-resolution color and stereo images to study its geology and surface; thermal images in infrared light to find warmer areas where water could be near the surface; reflected infrared light to map ices, salts, and organics; and ultraviolet light readings to help determine the makeup of atmospheric gases and surface materials.

Clipper will bounce ice-penetrating radar off the subsurface ocean to determine its depth, as well as the thickness of the ice crust above it. A magnetometer will measure the moon's magnetic field to confirm the deep ocean's existence and the thickness of the ice.

Related Links
Europa Clipper at JPL
The million outer planets of a star called Sol

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
James Webb Space Telescope sees Jupiter moons in a new light
Berkeley CA (SPX) Jul 28, 2023
With its sensitive infrared cameras and high-resolution spectrometer, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is revealing new secrets of Jupiter's Galilean satellites, in particular Ganymede, the largest moon, and Io, the most volcanically active. In two separate publications, astronomers who are part of JWST's Early Release Science program report the first detection of hydrogen peroxide on Ganymede and sulfurous fumes on Io, both the result of Jupiter's domineering influence. "This shows tha ... read more

Indian lunar lander splits from propulsion module in key step

NASA challenges students to fly Earth and Space experiments

Embracing the future we need

Virgin Galactic rockets its first tourist passengers into space

Rocket Lab inks dedicated launch deal with Japanese EO company iQPS

SpaceX launches another batch of Starlink satellites into space

Elon Musk arrives in Japan for first visit since 2014

China's Kuaizhou-1A rocket launches five new satellites

Delight at Dream Lake

Scientists proposed to adapt a Mars ISRU system to the changing Mars environment

A 'Blissful' Martian Rock Paradise, Straight Ahead: Sols 3919-3920

Enjoying the Climb: Sols 3916-3918

From rice to quantum gas: China's targets pioneering space research

China to launch "Innovation X Scientific Flight" program, applications open worldwide

Scientists reveal blueprint of China's lunar water-ice probe mission

Shenzhou 15 crew share memorable moments from Tiangong Station mission

Atlas Credit Partners provides $100M strategic financing to AST SpaceMobile

Intelsat completes C-Band spectrum clearing for 5G Deployment

ESA's Space Environment Report 2023

SpaceX successfully launches another batch of Starlink satellites

True Anomaly opens GravityWorks; gains federal clearances for space operations

ESA integrates Satellite Orbit Decay Forecast service to enhance satellite safety

Damage control: WVU researchers aim for the sky to track lethal space debris

LeoLabs provides tracking support for ESA's historic assisted satellite reentry

Watch an exoplanet's 17-year journey around its star

Exoplanet surveyor Ariel passes major milestone

The oldest and fastest evolving moss in the world might not survive climate change

Chemical contamination on International Space Station is out of this world

Neptune's Disappearing Clouds Linked to the Solar Cycle

NASA's Europa probe gets a hotline to Earth

The Road to Jupiter: Two decades of trajectory optimization

All Eyes on the Ice Giants

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.