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SLS Block I will have about three and Block II five times more capacity in terms of payload mass to LEO, than any launcher which has been used for an interplanetary mission to date. But the mission doesn't seem more ambitious than Cassini. Is that a fair statement and if so why?

The instruments selected do not seem to make use of extra mass. There's no 2 meter mirror, not huge PV panels for a powerful radar, no landing probe or impactor. And not enough shielding to orbit Europa directly instead of Jupiter. Shouldn't they do something conceptually new with all the extra mass? Do they want to keep it within the capability of other launchers? Is it likely that two or more missions to the outer planets will be launched at the same time? 3 missions to Mars can do a conservative sample return, wouldn't it be possible with 3 simultaneous missions to Europa too?

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    $\begingroup$ What makes you think that it isn't? If you look at the 2012 concept Europa multiple flyby mission launching on Atlas V 551, it takes 6.5 years to get there, and does 32 Europa science flybys in 18 months with 4 primary science instruments at total system mass margin of 48%. We know that the "new" Europa mission on SLS will have 9 science instruments and will aim to do 45 science flybys of Europa. I have no idea at what margin, because it's still in early definition phase. What missions are we comparing? $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Aug 1 '15 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ @TildalWave We should compare with similar missions which used a launcher which had less than 1/3 of the capability SLS will have. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Aug 1 '15 at 19:36

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