Jet wheels installed on Europa Clipper

(ORDO NEWS) — Engineers and technicians at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California installed four jet wheels on the Europa Clipper, which will rely on them as it travels to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

The 60 cm wide wheels, made of steel, aluminum and titanium, will rotate rapidly, creating a torque that will allow the orbiter to rotate in the opposite direction.

As the spacecraft enters orbit around Jupiter and begins collecting scientific data as it flies past Europa, the wheels will turn the orbiter so that its antennas can maintain contact with Earth and the science instruments remain oriented.

The Europa Clipper is scheduled to launch in 2024 and arrive in the Jupiter system in 2030. Scientists believe that Europa harbors a vast inland ocean that could provide conditions suitable for sustaining life.

The spacecraft will collect data on the moon’s atmosphere, surface and interior – information that will help scientists learn more about the ocean, ice crust and potential plumes.

During the flyby of Jupiter, the Europa Clipper will rely on jet wheels. The spacecraft could perform some of the maneuvers with the engines, but they require propellant, a limited resource aboard the orbiter.

The reaction wheels will run on electricity generated by the spacecraft’s huge solar arrays.

Of course, these wheels also have disadvantages. The jet wheels of the Europa Clipper will take about 90 minutes to turn the ship 180 degrees.

Also, they can wear out over time. To solve this problem, engineers installed four wheels on the Europa Clipper, although it only takes three to maneuver.

The scientists will rotate the wheels during operation to even out wear. Also, the fourth wheel will be useful if one fails.

The launch of the device is scheduled for October 2024. Over 2.9 billion kilometers, Europa Clipper will begin to uncover the secrets of the ice world.

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