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Clipper mission to Europa by SpaceX's Falcon

Aug, 2021

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Clipper spacecraft is supposed to get launched by late 2024 with the help of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket towards the mission of Jupiter's moon ‘Europa’.

Scientists from NASA had a sight of Jupiter's moon ‘Europa’ for a scientific study since long time. Europa is Jupiter's fourth largest moon with icy crust of a salty subsurface ocean. The study was planned to determine the potential for some form of life and a vast subsurface ocean. NASA officially confirmed the mission towards Europa through Clipper spacecraft in 2019. However, NASA recently took a further step towards this forthcoming mission. It announced that, by late 2024, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy would be used to launch the Clipper spacecraft towards Europa.

Researchers intended that Europa may have adaptable habitat for life due to its greater volume of subsurface ocean as compared to Earth's oceans. The mission was planned to investigate this possibility of life. The Clipper spacecraft is supposed to orbit Jupiter, revolving around Europa over the course of three years to scan almost the entirety of Europa and collect necessary data about its environment and habitat. Various instruments would be used by the Clipper to scan Europa such as ice-penetrating radar, spectrometers, plasma sensors, thermal and high-res cameras as well as other instruments. A radiation shield of aluminium alloy would be used as protection of Clipper's electronics from Jupiter's harsh radiation.

Initially, Clipper was supposed to use Space Launch System of NASA for the mission. However, due to its higher costs, the agency focused on the alternative that provided better planning efficiency and also lower costs. NASA contracted with SpaceX to use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Clipper spacecraft. It is a US$178-million contract. Falcon Heavy rocket is expected to serve as the launch vehicle for NASA's Viper mission in 2023. Meanwhile, Clipper launch is scheduled in October of 2024.

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