ICEMAG Update on Europa Clipper

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2019

After months of deliberations and analyzing various options, I recently made the difficult decision to terminate the Interior Characterization of Europa using Magnetometry (ICEMAG) investigation on the Europa Clipper mission. I believe this decision was necessary as a result of continued, significant cost growth and remaining high cost risk for this investigation, and aligned with Academy guidance received for this important mission.

During Phase A the entire Europa Clipper payload experienced significant resource growth, (including cost growth) due to accommodation challenges. This is expected due to system and environmental challenges for this mission, and typically confined to Phase A. However, during the System Requirements Review/Mission Definition Review and at the subsequent KDP B gate review concerns were raised that further growth was probable. This was a concern for NASA because of the guidance from the National Academies received directing NASA to keep Clipper cost in check due to the importance of program balance across all of planetary sciences.

This is why in 2017 NASA implemented a process to monitor resource usage for each Europa Clipper instrument. As part of the process, cost triggers were defined for each instrument with the understanding that exceeding the trigger would escalate the situation from the PI to the project and eventually to NASA Headquarters until a resolution was found.

In part, due to the implementation of these processes, payload resource growth soon came under control, a success I credit to the hard work of the PIs and mission teams. However, in March 2018, the ICEMAG investigation began to steadily approach its cost trigger, and three months later exceeded it. During this time and into early 2019, the ICEMAG team worked hard to address the cost growth and solve technical challenges, primarily related to the scalar vector helium sensors and their accommodation. The cost trigger was repeatedly increased to compensate for spacecraft accommodation. But cost growth continued to outpace increases to the cost trigger. At a briefing on February 14, 2019, the Principal Investigator presented a full status of the investigation to NASA Headquarters. This briefing included a current cost estimate from the ICEMAG PI of $45.6M for Phases A-D. This latest cost estimate is $8.3M above the cost trigger set in January 2019 and $16M above the original cost trigger set in February 2017. Altogether this represents a cost approximately three times the cost estimate presented in the original ICEMAG proposal.

The level of cost growth on ICEMAG is not acceptable, and NASA considers the investigation to possess significant potential for additional cost growth. As a result, I decided to terminate the ICEMAG investigation.

The PI and Europa Clipper Project Scientist diligently and thoroughly explained to me the role ICEMAG plays in achieving the Europa Clipper science objectives. It is clear to me that a magnetometer investigation brings significant value to Europa science and exploration. I am committed to finding a way to include a simpler, less complex magnetometer on the mission as a facility instrument, recognizing the importance of ease of integration onto the spacecraft provided boom. Furthermore, all ICEMAG Co-Investigators will be invited to remain on the Europa Clipper science team to support the mission. I have directed Dr. Lori Glaze, the director for the Planetary Science Division, to present plans within the next two weeks to achieve this goal.

Finally, NASA remains fully committed to Europa Clipper as an investigation to explore Europa with particular focus on its habitability. We consider it a critical part of the mission portfolio of NASA Science, and am looking forward to see this development mature towards flight.


Thomas H. Zurbuchen

Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate

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