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Artist’s concept of a plume of water vapor thought to be ejected off the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have led scientists to calculate that plumes may rise up to 201 kilometers. Artwork courtesy NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI.

MDL News & Trends

Compact Submillimeter-Wave Instruments for Planetary Exploration

NASA has funded development of a super-compact submillimeter-wave instrument for planetary exploration. Using newly developed silicon micromachining technology that enables a low-mass and highly integrated receiver, the Planetary Instrument for Submillimeter-wave Surface and Atmospheric Reconnaissance and Research in Orbit (PISSARRO) will provide a state-of-the-art submillimeter-wave radiometer/spectrometer for orbiter missions to Mars, Venus, Titan, and the Galilean moons. PISSARRO will allow a large number of chemical species, such as water, NO2, N2O, NH3, SO2, H2S, CH4, and HCN, among others, to be detected at concentrations below a part per billion.

The silicon-micromachined front-end of the PISSARRO instrument. It houses eight gallium arsenide devices along with the supporting waveguide circuitry to reduce mass and volume while increasing its measurement capabilities.

In exploring planets and their moons from orbit, PISSARRO will gather data on the thermal structure, dynamics, and composition of planetary atmospheres and surfaces. In radiometer mode, the instrument will measure the polarized thermal emission, revealing aspects of its chemical composition and physical state. As a spectrometer, PISSARRO will investigate the sources and sinks of trace gases and globally characterize the atmosphere with high spectral, spatial, and temporal resolution uniquely available through submillimeter-wave spectroscopy. It will also measure wind speeds, temperature, pressure, and key constituent concentrations in the planetary atmospheres with a higher precision than any other available technology.

To learn more about other work under development by MDL’s Submillimeter-Wave Advanced Technologies group, go to: