Sunday, 21 July, 2019

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Groundbreaking Astrophysics Mission

SpaceX gets $50 million NASA contract to launch space telescopes from Kennedy Space Center NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Groundbreaking Astrophysics Mission
Sandra Phillips | 11 July, 2019, 21:28

This is the sixth contract the company has won through NASA's Lunch Service Program, which oversees the launch of unmanned rockets carrying satellites for scientific missions by contracting commercial companies.

NASA has announced it will be contracting with SpaceX to launch its newest X-Ray observatory into space. Science mission in astrophysics had been the primary customers of the Pegasus XL with NASA's decision to launch IXPE on the Falcon 9.

The space agency says that IXPE will improve sensitivity over the only previous X-ray polarimeter-aboard the Orbiting Solar Observatory-8-by two orders of magnitude.

The new mission will serve as a groundbreaking move for both NASA and SpaceX since not much is known regarding the nature of this type of black hole. The expedition will also look into black holes and pulsar wind nebulae, which are nebula existing within the remnants of a supernova.

The estimated cost of the launch is $50.3 million, making it a relatively cheap project by NASA standards.

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NASA has planned to reuse the Falcon 9's first stage booster in the launch of the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer mission from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in April 2021.

The mission now is targeted to launch in April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, NASA said. As per the report, it likely won't take the entire payload of the rocket.

"SpaceX is honoured that NASA continues to place its trust in our proven launch vehicles to deliver important science payloads to orbit", said SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell in a statement. The last contract which signed between SpaceX and NASA was the Sentinel 6A ocean altimetry mission in November 2020 from California. The only mission which comes in the name of Northrop Grumman's Pegasus is the launch of NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft.

NASA has already awarded several launch contracts to SpaceX.

NASA selected IXPE in January 2017 as part of its Small Explorers program of astrophysics missions. In particular, it will measure the polarization of these X-rays, to understand how they are created by objects like neutron stars and pulsar wind nebulae.

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