Plasma Instrument for Magnetic Sounding

  • plasma instrument
    The plasma instrument for magnetic sounding.


Mission: Help conduct a detailed reconnaissance of Europa from orbit through the measurement of plasma currents. Ascertain the ice shell thickness and characteristics of the subsurface ocean for a future lander mission looking for life forms.  

Challenge: The radiation environment around Europa is the most severe known in the Solar System. The instrument must collect 4 pi steradian data and survive this harsh environment

Solution: Electronics and instrument calibration supporting PIMS in the measurement of the plasma around Europa

Value: SPRL’s expertise in precision instrumentation supports the important goals of this mission; to understand how Europa’s magnetosphere impacts both its neighbors and previous estimates of ocean salinity and depth.

Key Technology:

  • Trans-amplifier design uses a transimpedance configuration.

Scientific Objective

Europa’s icy crust is crisscrossed with lines — thought to be from ice breaking apart and rafting, evidencing subsurface oceans in its past.

Looking out at a frozen lake during a Michigan winter, it can be hard to image there is active life beneath the surface.  But the ice fisherman knows there is life and where to drill his hole and drop a line.

What about on the icy moon Europa, in orbit around the giant planet Jupiter?  Could there be active life just below the surface? That is the purpose of NASA’s Mission to Europa – to conduct a detailed reconnaissance of this icy moon from orbit and determine the best spot to land on the ice and drill a hole.

SPRL Contibutions

  • Instrument Co-Investigators, Prof. Justin Kasper, Prof. Jim Slavin, CLaSP
  • Design, Build, and Test of key parts of the PIMS instrument to conditions in orbit around Europa
  • Calibration and analysis of the complete PIMS instrument to collect and analyze ion species

Links: Europa Mission http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/europa-mission/