Europa Clipper faces delay due to SLS launch decision

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Europa Clipper orbiter can be stored for two years awaiting a flight to the icy moon of Jupiter – Europe. A $ 250 million mission is being delayed due to Congressional insistence that it be launched aboard the space launch system (SLS), according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The cost estimate suggests that the Europa orbiter will be ready for launch in July 2023, but it will be stored until launch on board the SLS in September 2025.

“This amount includes the following expenses: $ 1 million for physical storage; $ 129 million for staffing and potential staffing requirements; $ 96 million for the mission’s work in connection with a change in flight time to Europe from 2.4 to 3 years; and $ 24 million in reserve reserves, ”the GAO survey said.

A GAO survey evaluating all of NASA’s major projects showed that a two-year expectation of launch increased the Europa Clipper budget from $ 4 billion to $ 4.25 billion.

The scenario suggests that the SLS rocket will be available for launch in September 2025. However, the development of a giant rocket has stalled for many years with a large overspending.

In addition, the SLS rocket is a priority for the return of American astronauts to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. The Trump administration has postponed the deadline for a lunar landing with a crew for four years from 2028 to 2024.

NASA believes it could save up to $ 1.5 billion by launching Europa Clipper on another launch vehicle. So far, Congress is firmly committed to using SLS.

Meanwhile, engineers are struggling with the rising cost of tools that scientists will use to study the ice-covered moon and look for signs of life beneath its frozen surface.

“In March 2019, the deputy administrator of the scientific missions directorate decided to exclude one ICEMAG instrument from the mission, due to the significant and constant increase in costs and replace it with a simpler magnetometer,” the GAO report says.

“The project also revealed that three of the remaining eight instruments reached or exceeded the 20 percent threshold for value growth, and two more instruments were approaching it,” the document says. “Once the cost threshold is reached, the project should review options for cost control.”

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