A University of Colorado team is working on a device that will be headed to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons

A team at the University of Colorado is currently building on a $50 million probe that will eventually go to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, to analyze that moon’s surface and dust and determine if it can sustain life.

The probe — called a surface dust analyzer or “SUDA” — is one of nine devices that will be on board NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. The ship isn’t scheduled to launch from the earth until October of 2024 and will take about six years to get to icy Europa.

SUDA was developed over the course of several years at the university’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. It will soon depart for Florida, where it will launch with Europa Clipper from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

The Surface Dust Analyzer was developed by a research and engineering team at the University of Colorado over the past few years. In a few weeks, it will go to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will depart Earth in 2024 and arrive at Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, about six years later, where it will analyze dust and surface particles.


Engineers on the project say SUDA will help scientists and researchers understand more about the universe, such as where and how life can survive.

“If you know how life is started, and how rare it is — is it really just possible on Earth? — this tells you a lot about how to put things into perspective,” said Dr. Sascha Kempf, an associate professor at UC’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

Other technology that will be aboard Europa Clipper will measure light, radiation, water, atmosphere and other features and have been developed in places like Arizona State University, University of Texas at Austin, Applied Physics Laboratory, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute.

This illustration depicts NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The Europa Clipper orbiter will swoop around Jupiter on an elliptical path, dipping close to the moon on each flyby to collect data.


Liquid water has been found on Mars, Europa, Pluto and either exists or is strongly believed to exist on several other planets and moons, according to NASA.

Colorado is a hub of development for technology that observes or gets sent into space. The spacecraft JUNO was built at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Littleton. It launched from Cape Canaveral in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter in 2016.

“We’ve built instruments to study all the planets in the solar system, plus Pluto,” said Scott Tucker, the project manager for SUDA. “So we’ve done a lot of cool stuff and this, to me, is on par with a lot of those other accomplishments.”  

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