Sunday, April 5, 2009

Next Steps for New Frontiers and Europa Jupiter System Mission

NASA publishes a weekly planetary exploration newsletter. This week had two announcements about the next steps for the selection of the next New Frontiers mission and the Europa Jupiter System Mission. The notes are short enough that I'll reproduce them here.

The New Frontiers mission selection slipped as a result of the Mars Science Laboratory. NASA wanted to understand the impact of MSL's cost overrun before preceding. From the dates in the notice, it appears that the schedule has slipped out about two months. That would put the selection of 2-3 candidate missions for further study around January of next year. Following Phase A studies of the candidate missions, selection of the mission to be flown would occur early in 2011. You can see a list of the acceptable mission targets in the poll on the right side of this blog. The draft announcement also describes the target missions.

NASA's announcement:

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is releasing a NASA Announcement of Opportunity (NNH09ZDA007O), New Frontiers 2009. NASA expects to select up to three New Frontiers mission proposals for a 10 month Phase A study. Following evaluation of Phase A reports, NASA expects to approve one New Frontiers mission to proceed into Phase B and subsequent mission phases. Launch is to occur no earlier than late CY 2016 and no later than CY 2018. The proposed missions must address the science objectives of one of the eight mission concepts identified in the National Research Council's 2007 report, "Opening New Frontiers in Space: Choices for the Next New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity."

Europa Jupiter System Mission:

"The Europa Jupiter System Mission is first priority for the Outer
Planet Flagship Missions and involves the NASA Jupiter Europa Orbiter, ESA Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter, and possibly other elements, such as a JAXA Magnetospheric Orbiter. In addition to Europa and Ganymede,substantial Jupiter system science will be conducted.
"The science objectives were defined (
and the mission is in the next stage of development. Goals include
strengthening the science return, encouraging planetary community
involvement, and ensuring support by relevant space agencies. Workshops
are planned to assist potential instrument providers for addressing
radiation and planetary protection issues, with the first workshop
July 15-17 at the Applied Physics Laboratory, Maryland. In addition,
Jupiter-system sessions are planned for near-term meetings, such as
the European Planetary Science Conference this fall in Potsdam."


  1. Hi - I love your blog (check it every day). By any chance do you know when the presentations from the March OPAG meeting will be available online? I'm especially curious about the Titan Mare Explorer presentation. Thanks!

  2. My pet peve on this mission is the amount of time we are wasting just to get our equipement
    into orbit around Europa!!! I find it very frustrating that once more we all must hold our breath for YEARS just to have this mission confirm all of our theories of what is to be found under that beautiful large warm ocean up there. NASA must get away from the paradym of milking a project for all it is worth!!!

  3. Michael -

    I hear that the presentations will be posted 'soon.' One person who has seen the Titan Mare Explorer says that it is simpler than the mare lander (floater?) proposed for the Titan Saturn System Mission. I, too, though, look forward to seeing the proposal.

    Anonymous -

    I share your frustration for the long wait. The timing is based on projected availability of money both for NASA and ESA. If ESA drops out, I think the money flow (depending on future budgets and cost overruns) might permit a 2018 launch.

    The one piece of good news about the long lead time is that it gives NASA time to do a lot of preliminary design and technology development. This should reduce the risk of schedule slips and cost overruns.