Enabling Exploration

Space environments may contain extreme temperature or radiation fluctuations, as encountered by many APL missions, including Parker Solar Probe, MESSENGER, and the future Europa Clipper. Contamination engineers not only clean spacecraft hardware before launch but also determine whether molecules that come from materials in the vacuum of space will contaminate sensitive surfaces. Materials engineers examine and test materials to ensure they have the required properties for their intended environments. Planetary protection engineers ensure that our spacecraft do not accidentally deposit organisms or organic materials from Earth in the many destinations we explore for signs of habitability. Radiation and charging engineers model how the space radiation and plasma environments affect hardware, perform testing on specific parts and materials to quantify those effects and propose options to mitigate unwanted space environmental effects.


APL has designed, built and operated more than 70 innovative spacecraft over its six decades of spaceflight experience. Click below to learn about some of the missions that made revolutionary discoveries, and spacecraft that will push the boundaries of exploration and investigate outstanding scientific mysteries.


Go inside APL’s space missions and research, and check out the latest news, features and discoveries from the teams that are probing mysteries from the Sun to the edge of the solar system and beyond.