SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket will send NASA’s long-awaited mission to Europe, Jupiter’s icy moon, considered a prime candidate for supporting life in its deep oceans. The administration planned to send the device to the moon for years, but only decided on plans in 2019.
In an official announcement, NASA said the Europa Clipper is slated to launch in October 2024 aboard the Falcon Heavy. The contract cost $ 178 million – more than 10 times less than if NASA launched the mission using an SLS rocket.
Initially, the US Congress called on NASA to use SLS to send a mission. However, the White House estimated such a launch at $ 2 billion. Moreover, a launch on the SLS would require using Venus’s gravity to reach the target, increasing the duration of the flight. This is not required on the Falcon Heavy. Moreover, another $ 1 billion would have to be spent on additional modifications to the SLS to complete the mission.
If the Europa Clipper is launched in October 2024, it will only reach Jupiter’s orbit in April 2030. Here the probe will try to find signs that Europe can indeed support life. The device will photograph the surface, determine the composition, look for signs of geological activity, measure the thickness of the ice crust, look for lakes and determine the depth and composition of the oceans of Europe.