NASA taps SpaceX for yet another mission, this time to Europa
NASA has announced the recipient of its Europa Clipper Mission contract and you can already guess who won it: SpaceX. The private space company has been tapped by NASA many times over recent years for a variety of missions, including cargo launches to the International Space Station. This time around, SpaceX will launch the Europa Clipper spacecraft as part of NASA’s effort to study Jupiter’s moon.
Europa, Jupiter’s moon, has a massive internal ocean that spans the entire celestial body — one that has been identified as a potential source of life outside of our planet. NASA has another mission aimed at the moon in the works, one that will involve its Europa Clipper spacecraft collecting data through a series of flybys.
Of course, the spacecraft must be launched before that can happen, and that’s where SpaceX comes in. NASA has scheduled the mission launch for October 2024 and, under this newly awarded contract, SpaceX will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to provide the service.
The launch will take place at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. Once Europa Clipper reaches the moon, it will use a variety of instruments to help researchers on Earth determine whether Europa could potentially sustain life.
As a result, the public will get a new batch of high-resolution images of the moon’s icy, streaked surface. NASA wants to learn about Europa’s recent or current geological activity, as well as its composition, subsurface lakes, how thick its ice shell is, and how salty and deep its ocean may be.