The Europa Clipper project got the green light in 2015 from NASA. The Clipper will fly by the moon 45 times and provide researchers with a detailed look at the icy world below. Many believe Europa may have an ocean lurking under its ice crust.
When the project received the green light, the spacecraft had an obligation to fly on NASA’s space launch system (SSL). However, the program is delayed and significantly over budget. At the moment, the first SSL launch is in November 2021, but NASA officials believe that the timeline is highly unlikely.
Thus, NASA requested that the Europa Clipper fly commercial to keep its timelines on track.
NASA received permission to explore commercial space companies in the 2021 budget.