NASA said that it had chosen SpaceX to launch a planned trip to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. It is a major win for Elon Musk’s company, which is digging deeper into the solar system.
This Jupiter’s mission will launch in October 2024 from Florida. Mission has total contract value of US$178 million. Previously, the mission had to lift off on NASA’s space rocket (SLS), which was experiencing delays and cost overruns. Critics have called it a “work program” for the state of Alabama, where most of the development will take place.
SLS is not yet operational. The Falcon Heavy has been on commercial and government missions since its maiden flight in 2018. This generates more than 22 million Newtons of thrust at takeoff. It is equivalent to about eighteen 747s. The Europa Orbital Clip will make about 40 to 50 narrow passes over Europa to determine if the icy moon can accommodate these conditions fit for life.
The payload will include cameras and spectrometers to create high-resolution images and composite maps of the surface and atmosphere. It also will have radar to penetrate the ice sheet in search of liquid water below.