Wednesday, April 17, 2024

SpaceX over the moon about selection for Europa voyage

NASA selected SpaceX to launch a planned voyage to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, reports The Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The contract is worth $178 million. The mission was previously supposed to take off on NASA’s own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which has been plagued by delays and cost overruns. Critics have called the SLS a “jobs program” for the state of Alabama. While SLS is not yet operational, Falcon Heavy has deployed on commercial and government missions since its maiden flight in 2018 when it carried SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster into space. It generates more than five million pounds of thrust (22 million Newtons) at liftoff, equal to the power of about 18 747 aircraft. The Europa clipper orbiter will make 40 to 50 close passes over Europa to determine whether the icy moon could harbour conditions suitable for life. Its payload will include cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images and compositional maps of the surface and atmosphere, as well as radar to penetrate the ice layer to search for liquid water below.

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