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Space NASA The Almighty Buck Technology

Draper Labs Develops Low Cost Probe To Orbit, Land On Europa For NASA 79

MarkWhittington writes Ever since the House passed a NASA spending bill that allocated $100 million for a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa, the space agency has been attempting to find a way to do such a mission on the cheap. The trick is that the mission has to cost less than $1 billion, a tall order for anything headed to the Outer Planets. According to a Wednesday story in the Atlantic, some researchers at Draper Labs have come up with a cheap way to do a Europa orbiter and land instruments on its icy surface.

The first stage is to orbit a cubesat, a tiny, coffee can sized satellite that would contain two highly accurate accelerometers that would go into orbit around Europa and measure its gravity field. In this way the location of Europa's subsurface oceans would be mapped. Indeed it is possible that the probe might find an opening through the ice crust to the ocean, warmed it is thought by tidal forces.

The second stage is to deploy even smaller probes called chipsats, tiny devices that contain sensors, a microchip, and an antenna. Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa's atmosphere to be scattered about its surface. While some might be lost, enough will land over a wide enough area to do an extensive chemical analysis of the surface of Europa, which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth.
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Draper Labs Develops Low Cost Probe To Orbit, Land On Europa For NASA

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @01:37AM (#47279247)

    Cubesat-sized stuff is so small mostly because it tosses overboard redundancy and rad-hardened components.

    While it may work for short times on Earth orbit, sending a mini probe like this all the way to Jupiter (a very hostile radiation environment if there ever was one) sounds like a good way of wasting a launcher to me.

    Now if they'd toss half a dozen of these, I might buy it that one or two will get to Europa orbit and may actually do something useful.

  • by NotSanguine ( 1917456 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:20AM (#47279521) Journal

    What is it with you religious types and your dog whistle language? "gravity well"?

    And your space-addled brain sure picks some fancy words: "etiologies"??? You might want to look that one up!

    " We absolutely CAN expand into the galaxy/universe "

    LOL no "we" can't! Even if we could, evolution is still happening, what "we" are you talking about at those time scales?

    And why is it important? It's never gonna happen.

    Such a negative personality (I know, I know, "No, I'm not!"). The research to be done, technologies to be developed, and issues to be solved with becoming a space-faring race will pay us back many times over in solving the issues we have here on Earth.

    "Religious types?" "dog whistle language?" I know you can type on a keyboard, but can you actually read for comprehension? I think not. If you could, you'd realize what a steaming load you're posting.

    A bit of unsolicited advice for you, champ: 'tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.


  • not NASA engineers (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @07:37AM (#47280219)

    Those folks probably don't know about real deep space design issues, any more than the other thousands of cubesat space cadets out there.

    Not just radiation, but power. Solar power is 1/25th what it is at earth for instance.

    long duration flight. It takes 5 or 7 years to get there

A bug in the code is worth two in the documentation.