A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch NASA’s long-awaited mission to Europe, Jupiter’s icy moon, which may have the conditions to support life. The agency has been planning to send a probe to the Jupiter moon for years and completed its plans in 2019. In its announcement, NASA said the Europa Clipper spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in October 2024 Launch Complex 39A. It also revealed that the contract will cost the agency approximately $ 178 million – a steal compared to what it would have cost to launch the mission on NASA’s Space Launch System rocket.
As Ars Technica notes, Congress originally asked NASA to use the SLS to launch the Europa Clipper. At the time, however, the White House estimated that a single SLS launch would cost a whopping $ 2 billion. Far from ideal, especially since the SLS would need Venus’s gravity assistance and would travel farther to reach its destination while the Falcon Heavy wouldn’t. In addition, NASA told Ars that the SLS would require $ 1 billion in additional modifications to complete the mission.
If the Europa Clipper launches as planned in October 2024, it will reach Jupiter’s orbit in April 2030. The probe will then investigate whether the icy moon really has livable conditions. It will “capture high resolution images of Europe’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of new or ongoing geological activity, measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, search for underground lakes, and determine the depth and salinity of Europe’s oceans”. . “
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