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Home / Science / The ambitious Europa Clipper has taken an important step towards the flight

The ambitious Europa Clipper has taken an important step towards the flight



  A spaceship flies over a moon.
Enlarge / This is an earlier construction of the spaceship Europa Clipper.

NASA

has given its ambitious mission Europa Clipper the green light to proceed with the final design and then the construction of the spacecraft. According to the agency, the billion-dollar mission is to be launched by 2023 or 2025.

Each of NASA's key programs has to go through a complicated "life cycle," where different stages of development take place ̵

1; from the formulation of the idea to its implementation – are controlled by the necessary approvals. This is part of NASA's efforts to ensure that programs are developed to specific standards. In this case, the Europe mission has passed the so-called "key decision point C", where the programs are subjected to a rigorous review, moving from the provisional to the final draft. Then begins the construction of spacecraft components.

NASA has never sent a mission to a moon in the solar system that is not Earth's moon. But Jupiter's European satellite is something special. Scientists believe that it is a huge ocean under its icy shell that can harbor life. The large, capable spacecraft Europa Clipper is expected to fly more than 40 lunar flies to better characterize the ice, its thickness and the ocean below.

As with all major NASA missions, the Clipper was not without problems. A NASA Inspector General report released in May highlighted several spacecraft problems to be built at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Clipper had to compete for key human resources with at least four other large-scale JPL-managed projects, leading it to fear that the project might not have enough skilled labor at critical stages of its development cycle," the report said. This understaffed issue has been largely resolved, a NASA source Ars said.

The second major concern was the question of which rocket would fire the clipper at the Jupiter system. The congress insisted that he fly with the Space Launch System, which would shorten the flying time by a few years. However, the White House said Clipper should fly a commercial rocket, as it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars less, and there is no guarantee that the Space Launch System will be available for flight in 2023 or even 2025.

] This largely political problem is not resolved by NASA, but Clipper mission planners would rather know their launcher sooner rather than later. The spacecraft can either be operated with the Space Launch System, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy or Delta IV Heavy of the United Launch Alliance. However, if it flies with a commercial vehicle, which the mission scientists have indicated as acceptable, it must be designed to last longer term to the outer solar system.


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