Earlier this year, the company had also bagged a $2.9 billion contract from NASA to develop a lunar lander spacecraft for the Artemis mission, but it had been suspended.
SpaceX: Elon Musk’s SpaceX has had the first-mover advantage in the commercialisation of space and is aiming to dominate the private sector in this arena, and now, it has landed a $178 million launch services contract for an upcoming NASA mission. US space agency NASA is looking to launch its first mission focusing on Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon, in order to assess whether it could have conditions suitable for hosting life. The announcement was made by NASA last week, according to a report in The Indian Express, which added that the Europa Clipper mission would take off in October 2024. For the mission, the agency would use SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket and the launch would take place at NASA’s Florida-based Kennedy Space Centre, it added.
SpaceX has already worked with NASA in recent years to send numerous cargo payloads, as well as astronauts to the International Space Station, and this contract is another reinforcement of the agency’s confidence in Elon Musk’s company.
Earlier this year, the company had also bagged a $2.9 billion contract from NASA to develop a lunar lander spacecraft for the Artemis mission, which is anticipated because it would carry the space agency’s astronauts to the Moon for the first time in about four decades after 1972. However, the contract was suspended after competitors Blue Origin, which is Jeff Bezos’ space company, and Dynetics Inc protested against the contract.
However, the 23-storey Falcon Heavy, which is a reusable vehicle, is at present the most powerful operational space launch vehicle.
In its Europa Clipper mission, NASA aims to carry out a detailed survey of the icy moon of Jupiter, since at present, it is the leading contender in the search for life apart from Earth in the solar system. Europa is a little smaller than Earth’s Moon. During the mission, high-resolution images of the moon’s surface would also be captured so that its composition could be determined along with detection of any signs of geologic activity. Moreover, NASA is also hoping to determine the icy shell’s thickness and the depth as well as salinity of the moon’s ocean.