Nasa chooses SpaceX for its mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter
Eva Deschamps / July 24, 2021
Nasa announced Friday that it has chosen SpaceX for its planned trip to Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, a major victory for billionaire Elon Musk's company, which has ambitions to venture even further into the solar system.
The Europa Clipper mission will be launched in October 2024 with a Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The contract is worth $178 million.
The mission was previously supposed to involve Nasa's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which has experienced delays and cost overruns.
SLS not yet operational, Falcon Heavy has been deployed on commercial and government missions since its inaugural flight in 2018.
It generates about 2,300 tons of thrust (22 million newtons) at takeoff, the equivalent of about 18 747 aircraft.
The orbiter should make 40 to 50 close passes around Europa to determine if this icy moon can harbor conditions suitable for life.
In particular, it will be loaded with cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images and composition maps of the surface and atmosphere, as well as a radar to penetrate the ice layer and search for liquid water below.