The prospect of life beyond Earth has fascinated scientists for decades. With the introduction of the latest spacecraft from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Europa Clipper, scientists are one step closer to determining whether or not life’s necessary components can be found on other planets—specifically Jupiter’s smallest moon, Europa. In designing the spacecraft, NASA turned to Ohmcraft—a leader in thick-film, high-voltage, high-precision resistor design and manufacturing—to ensure its performance could endure the extreme environmental conditions in outer space.
The Europa Clipper will contain two critical instruments, MASPEX (Mass Spectrometer for Planetary Exploration) and SUDA (Surface Dust Mass Analyzer)—both of which utilize Ohmcraft’s custom resistors. To understand the complex interactions with Europa’s surface, interior, and atmosphere, Ohmcraft designed 20 custom, high-voltage leaded resistors and five surface mount resistors to be used in the MASPEX instrument. SUDA—which used six custom Ohmcraft precision-resistor designs—will detect a wide variety of compounds found in the dust environment surrounding Europa and connect them to their origin on the surface.
“When designing and manufacturing a spacecraft, the finished product is literally sent out of this world. As such, scientists only have one opportunity to get it right, which makes reliability absolutely critical,” said Eric Van Wormer, Vice President of the Ohmcraft division of Micropen Technologies. “We worked closely alongside Southwest Research Institute and the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmosphere and Space Physics to develop resistors to meet the very specific requirements needed for MASPEX and SUDA. We look forward to seeing the results of the mission.”
Ohmcraft’s technology utilizes the proprietary Micropen electronic printing system to “print” precise, narrow, serpentine lines with resistive ink on a ceramic substrate, producing higher performance resistors over a wider range of values on a smaller surface area than is possible with conventional film resistor technology. Ohmcraft performed extensive testing on these parts to meet the specific requirements of NASA’s space flight specification EEE-INST-002.