Star Tracker Optical Head
Published: February 23, 2022
The optical head for Europa Clipper’s stellar reference unit, or star tracker, in a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The optical head is a camera that uses special image processing to filter out spots and streaks resulting from high-energy charged particles.
Europa Clipper’s star tracker design was particularly challenging due to the intense Jovian radiation environment. This radiation consists of charged particles accelerated by Jupiter’s magnetic field. The particles create thousands of bright spots and streaks in star tracker images. To overcome that visual noise, engineers designed the star tracker to filter out the spots and streaks, enabling its computer to concentrate on the stars themselves.