NASA has announced that it will delay the publication of the tender for the upcoming New Frontiers planetary science missiontentatively scheduled for this fall, not earlier than 2026 due to budget problems.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) announced that the announcement of opportunity (AO) for the fifth New Frontiers mission will be delayed and that the list of missions eligible for selection may be modified.
“Uncertainty in Planetary Science Department (PSD) budget makes AO release difficult in 2023 and the consequent selection of a new mission,” the agency specified in its announcement. “NASA’s new goal is to launch the final AO no later than 2026.”
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Until this summer, NASA worked on issuing the New Frontiers mission tender in November.
27.2 billion for the year 2024
However, in recent weeks, NASA has slowed those plans, citing uncertainty related to funding for 2024, with a projected 1% increase in 2025. And in June, the agency’s top management projected that it was unlikely to get all of the $27.2 billion needed for 2024.
At the NASA SMD meeting late last July, Laurie Glaze, director of the agency’s planetary science division Be warned that there may be a delay in publishing the new frontier call. “If the expected levels of funding for planetary science in this context of budgetary constraints are achieved in the next two years or so, it is unlikely that we will be able to publish New Horizons before 2026,” Glaze said.
List of missions
The AO draft called for significant proposals on six topics, as recommended in the 2011 Planetary Science Survey: Return to the Surface of Comets, Mission to Jupiter’s Volcanic Moon, Lunar Geophysical Grid, Mission to Lunar South Pole – Hetken Basin, Mission to Characterize Possible Habitability of Saturn’s Icy Moon Enceladus, and Probe to Saturn’s Atmospheres.
The delay may prompt NASA to adjust this list, based on indications from the latest planetary science survey published in 2022.. The report did not recommend changes to the list of possible tasks for the fifth New Frontiers competition, but did make recommendations for the goals of the sixth and seventh competitions.
The Sixth New Frontier Competition
The survey slate for the sixth New Frontiers competition has maintained plans to return to the surface with comet samples, a lunar geophysical network and a probe to Saturn, adding that mission with orbiters and landers to a small centaur-type celestial body in the outer solar system, and a return mission with samples from Ceres, mission to fly by Saturn’s moon Enceladus, an orbiter of Saturn’s moon Titan, and In situ explorer for Venus. These are the tasks that are expected to be developed in the 2022 program over the next decade.
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