NASA's Europa Mission Moves Forward to the Design Phase

Feb 23, 2017 12:00 PM EST

NASA is committed to further explore Jupiter's moon Europa. A mission will be sent to the moon to explore its habitability and if an underground ocean is indeed present.

The agency has taken another step forward in order to execute the mission. NASA completed its Europa multiple-flyby mission review last Feb. 15. This means the mission was given the green light to move forward to its design phase called Phase B starting Feb. 27.

Phase A was the discussion and selection of instruments to be developed for the mission, while the second phase will focus on designing for the multiple-flyby. Phase B is expected to last until Sept. 2018.

By the end of phase B, a preliminary design of the mission's system and subsystems are expected. Some other components like solar cells and other instruments have been undergoing testing since the first phase was started. Vendors for the components will also b chosen during the duration of phase B along with the prototypes of specific hardware for the mission.

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In addition to the design phase, some parts will be built and tested during the period, according to a report. Both phases are being conducted for the Europa mission and its proposed launched in the 2020s that will arrive in Jupiter after a few year's journey.

During the Europa mission, the new spacecraft will perform flybys to Europa as often as every two weeks, which will give the mission ample opportunity to observe and investigate Jupiter's moon.

In order to explore a distant moon in a harsh planetary environment, an advanced spacecraft is required. For the mission, the proposed spacecraft is called Europa Clipper.

"Given the fact that there is liquid water on Europa, and the fact that it's been there for billions of years makes it one the likeliest places for life in our solar system," Dipak Srinivasan, from the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory said in a statement.

A maximum of 45 flybys is part of the mission's plan. The close approach to the icy moon will try to determine the composition and structure as well as the interior of the satellite. Reports say that every NASA mission undergoes specific phases in order to determine whether or not the said mission can proceed to the next step. Phase C and D will include final design, spacecraft fabrication, assembly, testing, and the launch itself.

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