NASA signed an agreement in September with a foundation to support initial studies of a privately funded mission to a potentially habitable moon of Saturn.
The unfunded Space Act Agreement between NASA and the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, initiated with little public fanfare, covers NASA support for initial concept studies, known in NASA programmatic parlance as “Pre-Phase A,” for a mission to the moon Enceladus, an icy world believed to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water and plumes that eject that water through the surface into space.
The agreement, the seven-page document posted on a NASA website states, “shall be for the purpose of cooperating on the Breakthrough Pre-Phase A activities for Breakthrough’s Enceladus Mission.” That includes supporting a series of reviews that leads up to what NASA calls Key Decision Point (KDP) A, “to determine progress to Phase A, for further formulation of the Enceladus Mission’s concept and technology development.”
The agreement includes a series of milestones from March through December 2019, such as development of preliminary project requirements in June and a mission concept review in September. The final milestone, in December 2019, would be KDP-A, where “NASA and Breakthrough provide recommendation on whether project should proceed to Phase A.”