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NASA’s Europa Clipper Unpacks in Florida

Technicians inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida prepare to rotate the agency’s largest planetary mission spacecraft, Europa Clipper, to a vertical position on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, as part of prelaunch processing.
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Crews rotated to vertical then lifted NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft from its protective shipping container after it arrived at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 28.

The spacecraft, which will collect data to help scientists determine if Jupiter’s icy moon Europa could support life, arrived in a United States Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility on May 23. The hardware traveled more than 2,500 miles from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California where it was assembled. The team transported Europa Clipper to the PHSF and will perform a number of activities to prepare it for launch, including attaching the high gain antenna, affixing solar arrays to power the spacecraft, and loading propellants that will help guide the spacecraft to its destination.

On board are nine science instruments to gather detailed measurements while Europa Clipper performs approximately 50 close flybys of the Jovian moon. Research suggests an ocean twice the volume of all the Earth’s oceans exists under Europa’s icy crust.

The Europa Clipper spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. The launch period opens Thursday, Oct. 10.

Managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California, NASA JPL leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The main spacecraft body was designed by APL in collaboration with JPL and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, executes program management of the Europa Clipper mission.

NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, manages the launch service for the Europa Clipper spacecraft.