CubeSat Payload for Europa Clipper Mission funded by JPL
ASU is one of a few institutions selected by JPL to study the feasibility of sending a CubeSat on the Europa Clipper mission. This groundbreaking mission will provide a platform for the first CubeSat to operate at such a distance from the earth. In addition to conducting reconnaissance for favorable potential landing sites for future missions, the scientific objectives of the Europa Clipper mission are to confirm the existence and nature of water, determine the composition and relevant chemistry, and investigate recent or possible ongoing geological processes on this moon. The spacecraft aims to address these objectives through 45 flybys of Europa, reaching down to 25 km from the surface while in an orbit around Jupiter, thus minimizing periods of high radiation exposure. The anticipated inclusion of up to three CubeSats will supplement the main mission with invaluable scientific contributions, expanding surface coverage and reducing attainable altitude, even facilitating observations of surface impacts; ultimately, executing risky tasks deemed too hazardous for the Europa Clipper craft itself. ASU’s SpaceTREx Laboratory is currently designing a 3U CubeSat with this goal in mind. Significant design challenges must be overcome due to the low insolation, extreme temperatures and radiation of the near-Europa environment, particularly with regard to propulsion and power generation. The SpaceTREx team is designing a robust system, utilizing low-cost, off-the-shelf components, to efficiently supplement the science return of the Europa Clipper mission on this icy moon of Jupiter.