NASA itself has called for this condition to be lifted and has now been complied with, but why should it worry about the missile being ready for a mission scheduled for 2024, when the SLS and Orion are scheduled to launch to the moon for the first time this year? In addition to the overall readiness of the SLS, there is also hardware compatibility between the probe and the carrier, which is said to have not been resolved.
And we could add that the commercial alternative can also be significantly cheaper than SLS, as the Ars Technica server points out, according to which NASA could save up to $ 1.5 billion thanks to SpaceX and Falcon Heavy. However, the truth is that the Falcon Heavy in its current form, although a heavy carrier, could not send a probe on a direct route to Jupiter as an SLS. However, a modified version using a stronger second stage Centaur is being considered, which should be enough for such a task. And if not, there are still gravitational maneuvers to speed up the flight, but of course they take time.
However, it should still be the case that the Europa Clipper will fly directly with the SLS if this rocket is ready in 2024, which should definitely be the case, if they are not to leave only strips of paper from the Artemis program. Now it will depend mainly on how the SLS will perform at its first launch in the autumn, with the first modern mission to the Moon with a human crew to follow in 2023.
The Europa Clipper otherwise has a high priority as an ambitious long-term robotic mission, with the spacecraft settling into the orbit of the moon under study. Ideally, the trip should take six years and then another four years of on-site work, examining in particular whether there is a really vast moon-long ocean under the ice crust and whether there might be life in it.
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