NASA Begins Assembly of Europa Clipper Spacecraft

One of the first images of Enceladus’ water jets taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Nov. 27, 2005. In this image, Enceladus is backlit by the Sun.Credits: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Science instruments and other hardware for the spacecraft will come together in the mission’s final phase before a launch to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa in 2024.

When it’s fully assembled, NASA’s Europa Clipper will be as large as an SUV with solar arrays long enough to span a basketball court – all the better to help power the spacecraft during its journey to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. And just about every detail of the spacecraft will have been hand-crafted.

The assembly effort is already underway in clean rooms at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Now, engineering components and science instruments are beginning to stream in from across the country and Europe. Before year’s end, most of the flight hardware – including a suite of nine science instruments – is expected to be complete.

The main body of the spacecraft is a giant 10-foot-tall (3-meter-tall) propulsion module, designed and constructed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, with help from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center 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 also will be arriving at the Lab soon…

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