Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
Virtual meeting
21 September – 9 October 2020
EPSC Abstracts
Vol. 14, EPSC2020-498, 2020
Europlanet Science Congress 2020
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Europa Clipper: Mission Status and Update

Cynthia Phillips1, Samuel Howell1, Robert Pappalardo1, David Senske1, Haje Korth2, Jennifer Kampmeier1, Kate Craft2, Rachel Klima2, Erin Leonard1, and the Europa Clipper Science Team*
Cynthia Phillips et al.
  • 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory / California Institute of Technology(
  • 2Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract


NASA’s Europa Clipper Mission [1] has as its top-level science goal: Explore Europa to Investigate its Habitability. Scheduled for launch in the next several years, the mission is now in Phase C, with construction begun on the highly capable payload of in situ and remote-sensing instruments. The mission will observe Europa’s ice shell and ocean, study its composition, investigate its geology, and search for and characterize any current activity.

Accommodations for the payload are now being completed. Major milestones from the past year include integration of the Europa Clipper Magnetometer (ECM) and revisions to the VHF antennas for the Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON) ice-penetrating radar instrument. Figure 1 (below) shows the current spacecraft configuration, including the revised REASON HF and VHF antennas and the ECM boom.  

The Europa Clipper science team continues to perform preliminary planning, including evaluation of potential trajectories and their capability to meet science objectives. Trajectories must also stay within tolerances for engineering parameters, including radiation total integrated dose, total time of flight, and fuel consumption. Through Europa Clipper’s Thematic Working Groups and Focus Groups, the science team is also evaluating the production of standard models for different natural phenomena and their potential observable responses, to be shared across investigations. This includes tools to understand and standardize possible ranges of Europa parameters of phenomena, e.g. potential plumes, the radiation environment, ocean and surface composition, and regolith properties.

The project abides by a “One Team” philosophy, where science team members are considered members of a single integrated science team, to avoid stovepiping of the science effort. The Europa Clipper Rules of the Road document spells out expected behaviors by science team members, including the expectation of inclusiveness, respect, and fair and equal treatment for all team members.

Science Objectives and Instruments

Following from the Europa Clipper goal are three Mission Objectives: (1) Characterize the ice shell and any subsurface water, including their heterogeneity, ocean properties, and the nature of surface-ice-ocean exchange; (2) Understand the habitability of Europa's ocean through composition and chemistry; and (3) Understand the formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity, and characterize high science interest localities.

To address the science requirements of the Europa Clipper mission, a highly capable suite of nine instruments comprise the mission's scientific payload. This payload includes four in situ instruments that measure fields and particles: The Europa Clipper Magnetometer (ECM), the Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding (PIMS), the SUrface Dust Analyzer (SUDA), and the MAss Spectrometer for Planetary Exploration (MASPEX). In addition, five remote sensing instruments will observe the wavelength range from the ultraviolet through radio (radar): the Europa Ultraviolet Spectrograph (Europa-UVS), the Europa Imaging System (EIS), the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE), the Europa Thermal Imaging System (E-THEMIS), and the Radar for Europa Assessment and Sounding: Ocean to Near-surface (REASON).

In addition, gravity and radio science will be achieved via the spacecraft's telecommunication system. Moreover, valuable scientific data could come from the spacecraft’s planned radiation monitoring system. For more information on these investigations, see [2] and [3].

Mission Plans

The instruments for the Europa Clipper mission are now in their critical design phase of development. Working together, the payload will provide data to explore Europa to investigate its habitability. Combined with a mission design that provides more than 50 globally distributed flybys over a period of ~3.5 years, it will be possible to access a diverse and widely distributed set of geologic terrains, providing data to constrain and test geophysical and geochemical models of the ice shell and ocean [2, 3]. The Europa Clipper mission is well on its way towards a launch in the next several years, and the science team, as well as the larger science community, eagerly anticipates the future results.


[1] Howell, S., and R. Pappalardo, Nat Commun. 11, 1311 (2020).

[2] Senske, D., et al., EPSC, 15-20 September 2019, Geneva, Switzerland, 2019.

[3] Korth, H. et al., EPSC, 15-20 September 2019, Geneva, Switzerland, 2019.


Europa Clipper Science Team:

Europa Clipper Science Team

How to cite: Phillips, C., Howell, S., Pappalardo, R., Senske, D., Korth, H., Kampmeier, J., Craft, K., Klima, R., and Leonard, E. and the Europa Clipper Science Team: Europa Clipper: Mission Status and Update, Europlanet Science Congress 2020, online, 21 Sep–9 Oct 2020, EPSC2020-498,, 2020.