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Dragonfly Delayed Due to Budget Uncertainty

DEC 04, 2023
Jacob Taylor headshot
Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
dragonfly-illustration.jpg

Artist’s impression of the Dragonfly rotorcraft-lander on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon and a major target in NASA’s quest to assess habitability and search for potential signs of life beyond Earth on worlds across the solar system.

(NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

NASA is delaying its Dragonfly mission by one year due to anticipated shortfalls in the agency’s fiscal year 2024 budget. The delay came as the mission received approval to move to its final design and fabrication stage, but NASA also postponed the final confirmation of the mission to mid-2024.

This is not the first time the mission has been pushed back, with a previous delay in 2020 also ascribed to budget limitations. Dragonfly is now set to launch in July 2028 for Saturn’s moon Titan, where it will aerially explore the densely clouded moon. Dragonfly is part of the New Frontiers program, which is the most expensive class of planetary science mission that NASA opens to a competitive mission-selection process.

NASA originally planned to solicit proposals for the program’s next mission by the end of this year, but in August the agency pushed back that move to at least 2026, again citing budgetary constraints.

Speaking about the Dragonfly delay, Planetary Science Division Director Lori Glaze said the division’s highest immediate priority is ensuring that the flagship Europa Clipper mission meets its launch window next fall.

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