NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission Advances with Solar Array Deployment

Three people in jumpsuits stand in front of a stretched out five-panel solar array inside of a building.
Technicians examine the first of two fully extended five-panel solar arrays built for NASA’s Europa Clipper suspended on a support system called a gravity offload fixture during inspection and cleaning as part of assembly, test, and launch operations inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Processing of the large solar arrays built for NASA’s Europa Clipper is now underway inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

Planned to arrive at Jupiter in April 2030, the spacecraft will study Jupiter’s moon Europa, which shows strong evidence beneath its icy crust of a global ocean over twice the volume of all Earth’s oceans. Europa is currently considered one of the most promising habitable environments in our solar system.

The first of two five-panel solar arrays built for NASA’s Europa Clipper stands inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for inspection and cleaning as part of assembly, test, and launch operations on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Once processing of the first five-panel solar array is complete, technicians will remove it from the gravity offload fixture, which helps support the weight of the array. The same steps will then be repeated with the second solar array. Built by Airbus in Leiden, Netherlands, the arrays arrived at Kennedy late last month by truck, after travelling to the U.S. by air. 

When both solar arrays are installed and deployed on Europa Clipper – the agency’s largest spacecraft ever developed for a planetary mission – the spacecraft will span a total length of more than 100 feet and weigh 7,145 pounds without the inclusion of propellants. The spacecraft needs the large solar arrays to collect enough light to power it as it operates in the Jupiter system, which is more than five times as far from the Sun as Earth. 

Europa Clipper is being assembled at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and is managed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The spacecraft will ship to Florida later this year for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch service.  

Join the conversation and get Europa Clipper mission updates from these accounts: 

X: @EuropaClipper, @NASA, @NASAJPL, @NASA_LSP, @NASASolarSystem, @NASAKennedy 

Facebook: NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission, NASA, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s Launch Services Program, NASA Solar System Exploration, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center 

Instagram: @NASA, @NASAJPL, @NASASolarSystem, @NASAKennedy 

NASA’s Psyche Mission Targeting Oct. 12 for Launch

 

Psyche spacecraft, shown close to a colorful asteroid.
Artist’s concept illustration depicting the spacecraft of NASA’s Psyche mission near the mission’s target, the metal asteroid Psyche.

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Oct. 12 at 10:16 a.m. EDT for a Falcon Heavy launch of the Psyche mission from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The change allows the NASA team to complete verifications of the parameters used to control the Psyche spacecraft’s nitrogen cold gas thrusters. These thrusters are used to point the vehicle in support of science, power, thermal and other demands, such as spacecraft orientation and momentum management. The parameters were recently adjusted in response to updated, warmer temperature predictions for these thrusters. Operating the thrusters within temperature limits is essential to ensure the long-term health of the units.

The verification activities involve rerunning simulations and fine-tuning adjustments as required to the flight parameters and procedures.

NASA, SpaceX, and Psyche mission managers met today, Sept. 28, to conduct a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the FRR, teams provided an update on the mission status, and certified the readiness to initiate final launch preparation activities including a static fire test on Sept. 29.

Psyche has launch opportunities every day between Oct. 12 and Oct. 25.

Solar Arrays Successfully Installed on NASA’s Psyche Spacecraft

Solar arrays for NASA’s Psyche spacecraft near Kennedy Space Center in Florida
Technicians begin to retract one of the two solar arrays attached to NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. This photo was taken on July 25 inside the Astrotech Space Operations facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Psyche spacecraft has completed another milestone. Solar arrays are now ready to power the spacecraft on a 2.5-billion-mile (4-billion-kilometer) journey to a metal-rich asteroid to help us learn more about planet formation. A team of engineers and technicians received, prepared, and installed the solar arrays on the spacecraft at the Astrotech Space Operations Facility near the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Learn more about the solar arrays here: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/huge-solar-arrays-permanently-installed-on-nasa-s-psyche-spacecraft