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How do we fill up the SLS 2021-2025 launch manifiest and launch once a year? Currently there are 2 (3 if including Asteroid Redirect Mission) planned SLS Missions for this time period- EM-2, a Manned Lunar Orbital mission, for 2021. SLS-Europa Clipper, a unmanned SLS probe launch, for 2025. and EM-3/ARM, a manned mission to a captured boulder orbiting the Moon, also for 2025. This leaves 2023 and 2022 without having any SLS launches (since 2025 is a year with 2 SLS launches. The next presidency will choose the ultimate near-term goal for the SLS-Orion Program, but the hardware required may not be developed in time- especially if it requires more new technology (like a Lunar Lander), compared to the currently favoured Lunar Space Station (which can be developed more quickly and its lessons are valuable for various deep-space destinations (including long-term habitation of the Moon). On the other hand, ESA is developing its own Jupiter Orbiter, Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, or JUICE, to study Castillo, Europa, and Ganymede (later orbiting Ganymede). It is planned to launch in 2022, using a VEEGA gravity Assist trajectory to sling it to the Jupiter system. As a result, it would arrive in 2030, while Europa Clipper, which is just as complex, if not more (now that it has a lander, and needs to survive Jupiter's radiation belts) arrives in 2027, BEFORE the somewhat less risky Ganymede and Castillo-focused JUICE. If JUICE instead used the SLS Block IB (To be safe, as JUICE is about Five Tons mass, and SLS Block I can only carry up to 4.3 T to Jupiter on a direct trajectory- even a STAR motor may not be enough, and the situation would get worse if the proposed Russian Laplace-P lander is built and attached to JUICE, though unlikely due to Rocosmos' budget cuts) it could get to Jupiter by 2024, a transit time of 2 years. This is advantageous for more than just filling SLS' launch schedule: 1. If it arrives in 2034, JUICE can also use its few Europa flybys during its 3 year tour of the Jupiter system before Ganymede orbit insertion to give missions planners guidelines on where to flyby- currently, only the old Galileo probe produced data capable of doing this job. Not only are these measurements from old 70's-80's era probes (Galileo was delayed from a 1986 launch due to Challenger), Galileo also had to use its low-gain antenna, as its high-gain antenna did not deploy, meaning even less data for Europa mission planners to work with. Using JUICE for basic reconnaissance of Europan destinations would make Europan mission planners more confident in where they should flyby (even more important, since they have to set down a lander at a scientifically important place), not to mention wet the tongues of scientists and science nerds like. 2. The lower transit time means more science, as the components of the probe will not have to survive the approx. 6 extra years in deep space- meaning the critical components (like instruments and solar panels) will likely last longer, meaning more science overall! (Especially solar panels, which degrades under Jupiter's radiation belts, so you need them in tip top condition when they get there in the first place.) 3. Faster transit time also means faster science, allowing future missions to these icy moons to themselves take place earlier (if the budget allows it, or course. Castillo Orbiter anybody?). It's also better for scientists. There are disadvantages, though: 1. Higher Cost for launch (duh). Ariane V, the current JUICE launcher, costs $200 Million per launch, while the SLS Block I costs $500 million per launch (the Block IB is more costly, but cost per launch is unknown. Let's just say $700 Million. (Saturn V was about $1.5 Billion per launch, depending on the estimates) That's a 3.5 x greater cost per launch. 2. Less science from Venus and Asteroids, due to no Venus flybys on a direct trajectory to Jupiter, and only one pass through the asteroid belt via a direct trajectory, rather than 2 with VEEGA. 3. NASA would need to negotiate with ESA- they would need something in return for providing the free SLS launch. 4. Some planning and modifications to JUICE on ESA's side needs to be redone- however, this is likely not a huge issue, as JUICE is launching in 2022, 7 years into the future. Even if building the proposal, getting it approved, and the negotiation process takes 3 years, there are still 4 years to make changes to the probe- probably plenty of time. I propose that this SLS launch would be funded by having ESA build the now-required by Congress Europa Lander, while NASA gives ESA a free ride to Jupiter. So good idea or no? A poll has been set up for this tread.
Imagine it is the year 2021. Mars 2020 has launched last year, and is now operational on Mars. Europa Clipper is set to launch in 4 years, and is being constructed- meanwhile, the Uranus Orbiter (and atmospheric probe) is undergoing planning and design for launch in 2030. ( Let's just say, just to get that out of the way) You are responsible for selecting 3 flagship missions NASA should pursue for the next 10 years. (Not exactly realistic, but lets's just say) What missions would you propose and choose? The list should be in order of importance. My list: 1. Mars Sample Return (taking the samples cached from Mars 2020, and returning team back to Earth- this is important, so that the samples are obtained before the rover breaks and complicates things.) 2. Titan Orbiter and Lander (A solar-powered probe that does multiple flybys of numerous Saturnian moons for a few years before settling in orbit around Titan. Then the probe would release a lander to the surface of Titan, which does a parachute-assisted landing on one of Titan's seas- and is very similar to TiME, but using normal RTGs instead) 3. Neptune-Triton Dual Orbiter Mission (Sends two orbiters to Neptune. One is released to study Neptune from Neptune Orbit, while the other goes into Triton Orbit to study the moon.) What missions would YOU choose?