NASA has selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to launch the Europa Clipper, the first mission to conduct detailed reconnaissance of the Jovian moon. [credit:
Trevor Mahlmann ]
After years of speculation, NASA officially announced Friday that SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy would launch what is arguably the space agency’s most important Solar System exploration mission of the 2020s—the Europa Clipper.
Slated to launch in October 2024, the $4.25 billion mission will spend much of the remainder of this decade flying to the Jovian system before entering an elongated orbit around Jupiter. The spacecraft will then make as many as 44 flybys of Europa, the intriguing, ice-encrusted Jovian moon that scientists believe harbors a vast ocean beneath the surface. It is possible that aquatic life exists there.
The total contract award amount for launch services is approximately $178 million, NASA said in a news release. This is a significant moment for SpaceX, as the company will be entrusted with one of NASA’s highest-priority exploration missions. The deal also saves NASA about $2 billion.