Europa Clipper mission completes another milestone as solar arrays arrive at NASA

Massive solar arrays for NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft have arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, from the Airbus facility in Leiden, Netherlands.

Solar array assembly for NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft in the cleanroom of Airbus in Leiden, Netherlands
Solar array assembly for NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft in the cleanroom of Airbus in Leiden, Netherlands. (Image credit: NASA/Airbus Defence and Space Netherlands)

Europa Clipper is NASA’s new mission to study Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. It will be launched on October 10, 2024, and will arrive in Jupiter’s orbit in April 2030.

The two solar array wings will be attached to the Europa Clipper spacecraft before launch. Each wing is approximately 46.5 feet (14.2 meters) long and approximately 13.5 feet (4.1 meters) high. 

An artist's illustration shows NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft with its massive solar arrays
An artist’s illustration shows NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft with its massive solar arrays. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

According to NASA’s statement, the Europa Clipper is the largest spacecraft NASA has ever developed for a planetary mission. With its solar arrays deployed, the Europa Clipper spans more than 100 feet (about 30.5 meters), or about the length of a basketball court. 

These solar arrays will provide power to the spacecraft during its 1.8-billion-mile journey to Europa and during its operations in the Jovian system.

Scientists have found subsurface global ocean beneath the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. However, not just the water but also the distance of Europa from Jupiter plays an important role in biological possibilities as well. 

Beyond Earth, Europa is considered one of the most promising places where we might find currently habitable environments in our solar system. Europa Clipper will determine whether there are places below Europa’s surface that could support life.

Currently, NASA’s other spacecraft, Juno, is orbiting Jupiter and is on its extended mission. Recently, scientists have measured using the data from NASA’s Juno spacecraft that Jupiter’s moon Europa produces 1,000 tons of oxygen every 24 hours.  

Related article: NASA’s Juno spacecraft measures oxygen production at Jupiter’s moon Europa 

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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