New Antenna Design Will Withstand the Harsh Environment on Europa
Reading Time: 2 minutes

There is no planned mission to send a lander to Europa, but the new antenna design will make it possible to stay in touch with the Earth and withstand the harsh environment there.

Europa, one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, has an ocean estimated anywhere from 40 to 100 miles (60 to 150 kilometers) deep that spans the entire moon, hidden below the thick layer of ice. It has twice as much liquid water as Earth’s oceans. Water occasionally erupts through the cracks in the ice as high as 200km above the surface.

New Antenna Design
The antenna team, including the author [right], examines one of the antenna’s subarrays. Each golden square is a unit cell in the antenna.
Taking into account the harsh condition on Europa, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) designed a robotic lander to withstand them. With the antenna being the key factor, as it is required to maintain a direct-to-Earth link across more than 550 million miles (900 million km) when Earth and Jupiter are at their point of greatest separation.

New Antenna Design
Each unit cell is pure aluminum. Collectively, they create a steerable signal by canceling out one another’s signals in unwanted directions and reinforcing the signal in the desired direction.

To survive the onslaught of ionizing particles from Jupiter the antenna had to be radiation hardened. Required to be light and large enough not to jeopardize the lander during takeoff and landing. Though it was a difficult task, the engineers managed to build a revolutionary design to successfully implement in the future missions for other destinations in the solar system.

Mission to Europa

New Antenna Design
JPL engineers, including the author [bottom row on left], pose with a mock-up of a Europa lander concept. The model includes several necessary technological developments, including the antenna on top and legs that can handle uneven terrain.
The only planned mission to Europa is the Clipper orbiter. The NASA mission will study moons chemistry and geology and will likely launch in 2024. Presently any such lander is conceptual, however, the concept has been funded keeping in mind the need to develop crucial new technologies for any successful mission on the icy world. Europa has a topography we never attempted to land before.

Source: Spectrum

Related Articles:

New Computer Vision and Deep Learning Approaches for Improving Degraded Images
LED Traffic Signal Lights Designed for the 21ST Century
Artificial Intelligence Will Solve your Insomnia Problem