Europa Clipper High-Gain Antenna Undergoes Testing

A full-blown model of the high-gain antenna on NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft is going through testing in the Speculative Test Variety at NASA’s Langley Proving ground in Hampton, Virginia. Credit: NASA/Langley

It most likely goes without stating, however this isn’t your daily dish antenna.

In truth, it’s not a dish antenna at all. It’s a high-gain antenna (HGA), and a future variation of it will send out and get signals to and from Earth from a looping orbit around Jupiter.

The antenna will take that long journey aboard NASA’s Europa Clipper, a spacecraft that will perform comprehensive reconnaissance of Jupiter’s moon Europa to see whether the icy orb might harbor conditions ideal for life. Researchers think there’s an enormous salted ocean underneath Europa’s icy surface area. The antenna will beam back high-resolution images and clinical information from Europa Clipper’s cams and science instruments.

The full-blown model antenna, which at 10 feet (3 meters) high is the exact same height as a basic basketball hoop, remains in the Speculative Test Variety (ETR) at NASA’s Langley Proving ground in Hampton, Virginia. Scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, and Langley are testing the model in the ETR in order to evaluate its efficiency and show the peak precisions needed for the Europa Clipper objective.

The ETR is an indoor electro-magnetic test center that permits scientists to identify transmitters, receivers, antennas and other electro-magnetic elements and subsystems in a clinically regulated environment.

“Several years ago we scoured the country to find a facility that was capable of making the difficult measurements that would be required on the HGA and found that the ETR clearly was it,”stated Thomas Magner, assistant task supervisor for Europa Clipper at the Applied Physics Lab. “The measurements that will be performed in the ETR will demonstrate that the Europa Clipper mission can get a large volume of scientific data back to Earth and ultimately determine the habitability of Europa.”

Tests on this model antenna are set up to finish up quickly; nevertheless, scientists prepare to go back to the ETR in 2020 to perform extra tests on Europa Clipper’s high-gain antenna flight short article. Europa Clipper prepares to introduce in the 2020s, with travel time to Jupiter taking 3 to 7 years (depending upon the launch automobile and which planetary positionings can be used).

JPL handles the Europa Clipper objective for NASA’s Science Objective Directorate. The multiple-flyby principle was established in collaboration with the Applied Physics Lab.

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