The US space agency NASA has commissioned SpaceX with the start of the “Europa Clipper Mission”. The Jupiter moon is to be examined for possible life. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket will take off in October 2024. The SpaceX contract will cost NASA around $ 178 million. That is significantly cheaper than using your own giant rocket “Space Launch System” (SLS).
NASA stated that the Europa Clipper Mission probe should provide detailed information about Europe. Research into habilitability is in the foreground. The main objectives of this mission are to produce high resolution images of the surface of Europe, determine its composition, find signs of new or ongoing geological activity, measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, find underground lakes and determine its depth as well the salinity of Europe’s ocean.
SpaceX order cheaper than NASA rocket
Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX can launch Europa Clipper for just $ 178 million. However, the flight to Jupiter will take more than five and a half years, so the probe will not reach Europe until April 2030. NASA’s own SLS rocket would have made the flight in around three or four years, according to NASA Ars Technica but cost around $ 2 billion more.
In addition, scientists feared that the launch of the mission with an SLS missile would have been postponed. The SLS rocket is already being used for the Artemis mission, which is expected to bring astronauts to the moon in 2024. The aircraft manufacturer Boeing is responsible for the rocket’s engines and, in the opinion of NASA officials, it would be better to concentrate fully on Artemis than on two projects of this magnitude.
No alternatives, but ESA also has a Jupiter mission
the Choosing SpaceX as a means of transportation was according to information from Space News on the other hand, an easy decision. For the Europa Clipper Mission, NASA has required three successful launches in total and at least two successful launches in a row. Although the last take-off was two years ago, Falcon Heavy has already flown successfully three times. Alternatives such as Blue Origins New Glenn or Vulcan Centaur from the United Launch Alliance, on the other hand, will only take off for the first time next year.
Europa Clipper isn’t the only planned Jupiter mission. In June 2022 “Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer”, a probe of the European space agency ESA, is to be launched. Your goal is to explore the Galilean moons of the planet Jupiter, especially Ganymede, but also Europe and Callisto. The aim here is also to investigate whether these moons enable life and are habitable for living beings. The probe is scheduled to reach Jupiter in October 2029.