The SUDA sensor head is shown resting on a table in a clean room, seen on the right-hand side of the image. The sensor head is gold in color and looks slightly like a drum in shape. A clear tube is seen attached to the top, where nitrogen gas is pumped through. To the left of the sensor head, additional equipment is shown resting on the table. Above the table a fan device is shown hanging from the ceiling.
Source: NASA/CU Boulder/Glenn Asakawa
Published: August 16, 2022

Europa Clipper’s SUrface Dust Analyzer (SUDA) sensor head sits on a flow bench in a clean room at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dry nitrogen gas is continually pumped through the instrument during assembly and testing to ensure it remains clean and free of contaminants.

Tiny meteorites eject bits of Europa’s surface into space and a subsurface ocean or in-ice water reservoirs might vent material into space as plumes. To study this, SUDA will scoop up larger particles from these plumes and identify their chemistry, revealing Europa’s surface composition including potential organic molecules. SUDA can detect salts in the dust and ice grains, providing additional information about a subsurface ocean. If a subsurface ocean or reservoir is venting material into space as plumes, SUDA will help us to determine if Europa’s water is suitable for some form of life.

Europa Clipper will conduct nearly 50 flybys of Europa, which scientists are confident harbors an internal ocean containing twice as much water as Earth’s oceans combined. And the moon may currently have conditions suitable for supporting life. The spacecraft’s nine science instruments will gather data on the moon’s atmosphere, surface, and interior – information that scientists will use to gauge the depth and salinity of the ocean, the thickness of the ice crust, and potential plumes that may be venting subsurface water into space.