A draft of a proposal for congressional appropriations published on Tuesday opens the doors to Elon Musk’s missile company, or even to a competitor like, to provide the passage that will send an orbit to the Jovian system by 2025 and a lander to Europe by 2027.
“The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will use the space launch system, if available, such as the 10 launch vehicles for the Jupiter Europe missions,” reads the bill from the House Appropriations Committee.
These two small words – “if available” – are new. In the past, Congress tied money for the Europe mission to a requirement that NASA use its space launch system. Butand over budget for years now. And SpaceX recently launched NASA’s internal missile development program, with the successful debut of Falcon Heavy and the ongoing progress of its largest starship.
SLS is proving far more expensive than what SpaceX could offer, and it’s not even clear that it will be ready for 2025 at this point.
The bill also provides for over $ 400 million for NASA to build Europe’s orbit.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the budget process. Congress will continue to negotiate actual amounts and terms of how much NASA will actually receive and for what. However, this small change in an initial document is an important acknowledgment that staying with SLS may not be practical if the rocket isn’t ready in time for a launch as soon as 2024.
The same law also allocates funds for NASA’s Artemis mission to bring astronauts back to the moon, although it offers less than half of what the White House has asked for.
The Trump administration has set a goal to send the first female astronaut to the moon’s surface by 2024, a goal that many within the space industry are skeptical of, particularly without full support from Congress and the his wallet.