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The radio frequency telecommunications system for the NASA Europa clipper mission

AuthorSrinivasan, Dipak; Angert, Matthew; Ballarotto, Mihaela; Berman, Simmie; Bray, Matthew; Garvey, Robert; Hahne, Devin; Haskins, Chris; Porter, Jamie; Schulze, Ron; Scott, Chris; Sharma, Avinash; Sheldon, Colin;
KeywordsData handling; Earth (planet); Microwave antennas; NASA; Orbits; Propulsion; Radio navigation; Radio waves; Space flight; Telecommunication; Traveling wave tubes; Parker Engineering
AbstractThe NASA Europa Clipper mission, a partnership between the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), is currently in Phase B and scheduled for launch in 2022. A Jupiter orbiter, it will perform repeated flybys of the moon, Europa, to assess the icy moon’s structure and habitability. The spacecraft’s dual X/Ka-band radio frequency telecommunications subsystem has five primary functions: Provide spacecraft command capability, provide spacecraft telemetry and science data return, provide radiometric capability for navigation, provide relay support for a future Europa Lander, and provide suitable link coverage to support the Europa gravity science investigation. The primary link to the Earth is via the NASA Deep Space Network, with backup links through the Near-Earth Network (to support launch activities) and potentially the ESA and JAXA ground networks for additional coverage robustness. The on-board RF system heavily leverages the NASA Parker Solar Probe communications architecture, featuring the same X/Ka-band Frontier Radio modified to perform the proposed relay functionality as well as interface to the JPL-provided command and data handling (C&DH) system. The communications system also includes a 3-m dual X/Ka-band HGA to enable the high data volume from the mission’s science payload, along with a robust X-band antenna suite including two low gain antennas, three fanbeam antennas, and one medium-gain antenna to support launch and early operations, maneuvers, cruise operations, gravity science, and safe modes. Two sets of redundant traveling wave tube amplifiers and an RF switching network round out the on-board flight RF system. As part of the JPL/APL collaboration, APL is responsible for delivering an integrated RF Module and integrated Propulsion Module for subsequent flight system integration activities at JPL. To simplify interfaces, the RF Module will be directly integrated to the Propulsion Module before shipping to JPL. This paper will discuss the RF telecommunications system of the Europa Clipper Mission, including its requirements, concept of operations and operational modes, components, mechanical interfaces, and integration and test approach.
Copyright © 2017 by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). All rights reserved.
Year of Publication2017
JournalProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
Number of Pages4989-4998
Date Published