NASA said that the Europa Clipper spacecraft will launch in October 2024 from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It also disclosed that the contract with SpaceX will cost the agency roughly $178 million USD.
Previously, the Europa Clipper was legally obligated to launched via NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS); however, due to multiple delays and an excessively high budget, Congress gave NASA permission to launch the probe through a commercial vehicle, saving approximately $1 billion USD in the process.
The Europa Clipper first received clearance from NASA in 2015, when the mission moved from its initial concept into its development phase. Upon launching in October 2024, Europa Clipper will reach Jupiter’s orbit in April 2030.
According to NASA, the mission will “produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of recent or ongoing geological activity, measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, search for subsurface lakes and determine the depth and salinity of Europa’s ocean” in an effort to determine whether the icy moon possesses adequate conditions for lifeforms. The probe will fly by the moon 45 times in order to acquire the appropriate data.