A group of eleven engineers wearing full-body white protective clothing stand facing the camera in a cleanroom. All of the engineers are giving a thumbs up hand expression. In the middle of the group of engineers is a large transparent box, approximately five feet tall, two feet wide, and two feet deep. Inside the transparent box is the mass spectrometer. Europa Clipper’s mass spectrometer takes up the middle of this image. The instrument consists of a long cylinder, several feet tall and a couple of inches in diameter. It takes the shape of an automobile spark plug, with a series of ridges visible at the top. Copper plating and wires extend from the instrument in multiple areas. The instrument is installed on a supportive structure.
Europa Clipper’s MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa, called MASPEX, was delivered to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in December 2022. Seen in this image are engineers from JPL and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), who built the instrument. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A new mass spectrometer designed and built by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been delivered to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for integration onto NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. Scheduled to launch in 2024 and arrive in the Jovian system in 2030, Europa Clipper will conduct a detailed science investigation of the moon Europa and study whether it could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Europa Clipper’s mass spectrometer takes up the middle of this image. The instrument consists of a long cylinder, several feet tall and a couple of inches in diameter. It takes the shape of an automobile spark plug, with a series of ridges visible at the top. Copper plating and wires extend from the instrument in multiple areas. The instrument is installed on a supportive structure. Engineers are visible in the background working.
Europa Clipper’s MAss SPectrometer for Planetary EXploration/Europa, called MASPEX, is seen in a cleanroom at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, following delivery of the instrument from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The MAss Spectrometer for Planetary EXploration (MASPEX) instrument will be one of nine science instruments in the mission payload. MASPEX will analyze the gases near Europa to understand the chemistry of Europa’s surface, atmosphere and suspected subsurface ocean. It will also study how Jupiter’s radiation alters Europa’s surface compounds and how its icy surface and subsurface ocean exchange material.

Once it arrives, Europa Clipper will orbit Jupiter and perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon. MASPEX works by taking in gas molecules from Europa and converting them into charged particles called ions. It bounces the ions (atoms and molecules missing an electron) up to 400 times back and forth within the instrument. By timing their transit through the instrument, MASPEX measures the mass of these ions, which reveals each molecule's identity which in turn helps to determine whether Europa is habitable.

Read more about the delivery here.

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