Elon Musk's private rocket company SpaceX was slotxo awarded a US$178 million launch services contract for NASA's first mission focusing on Jupiter's icy moon Europa and whether it may host conditions suitable for life, the space agency said on Friday (Jul 23).
The Europa Clipper mission is due for blastoff in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk's company, Space Exploration Technologies, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said in a statement posted online.
The contract marked NASA's latest vote of confidence in the Hawthorne, California-based company, which has carried several cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in recent years.
In April, SpaceX was awarded a US$2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the planned Artemis programme that would carry NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.
But that contract was suspended after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics, protested against the SpaceX selection.
The company's partly reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful operational space launch vehicle in the world, flew its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.
NASA did not say what other companies may have bid on the Europa Clipper launch contract.