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NASA’s Chooses SpaceX Falcon Heavy for Europa Clipper

29 Jul 2021, 12:05 UTC
NASA’s Chooses SpaceX Falcon Heavy for Europa Clipper
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MAGE: This illustration, updated in December 2020, depicts NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft. With an internal global ocean twice the size of Earth’s oceans combined, Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. Europa Clipper is aiming for a launch readiness date of 2024. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One major piece of rocket news this week is the announcement that NASA’s Europa Clipper spacecraft will launch on a commercial launch vehicle, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, in 2024. This is a big deal for several reasons. Europa Clipper is the first spacecraft to specifically investigate Jupiter’s moon Europa. It will explore the potential habitability of the moon, including confirming the existence of a subsurface water ocean and its composition (if geysers allow), while looking for key compounds related to life. It will also look for signs of recent geologic activity that could provide the energy needed for life. Finally, it will look for a spot for a future lander to set down. All of this science makes Europa Clipper a very large spacecraft, over six metric tons at launch.

Europa Clipper requires a large launch vehicle for its high-energy trajectory. NASA’s Space Launch System was originally intended to send the spacecraft on a ...

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