Published: Thu, July 11, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA awards SpaceX $50 million contract for new mission

NASA awards SpaceX $50 million contract for new mission

SpaceX wins a contract from NASA to launch Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer or IXPE that will help the researcher and scientists to study polarized light from sources like pulsar wind nebulae and supermassive black holes for more intricate observations.

SpaceX has received a contract to help NASA launch an observatory created to help scientists discover astronomical details in space.

The IXPE mission now is targeted to launch in April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The IXPE rocket is built by Ball Aerospace and the spacecraft was created to fir the Pegasus rocket's payload fairing envelope and its weight is going to be around 300 kilograms during the launch. "In addition to IXPE, SpaceX's future launch manifest includes NASA's LSP missions SWOT, Sentinel-6A, and DART". SpaceX charges more to the US government customers and the US Air Force because of the mission assurance. She noted IXPE is the sixth mission the corporate has won a contract to launch through NASA's Launch Services Program, which handles satellite missions.


"SpaceX is honored 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 to TechCrunch.

For the upcoming project, SpaceX will turn to its veteran spacecraft Falcon 9 to carry NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) research vessel. The IXPE rocket is created to fly at a distance of 540 kilometers to the equatorial orbit at an inclination of 0 degrees. The IXPE will fly at a 0 degree inclination, which will minimize its exposure to radiation in the South Atlantic Anomaly (where the Van Allen radiation belt is closest to the Earth). The ICON contract is worth $56.3 million as per NASA's announcement back in 2014. The agency previously said that the DART launch would be a dedicated mission.

NASA has selected the company that will assist in launching what the space agency refers to as a "groundbreaking astrophysics mission". 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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