SpaceX wins contract to launch NASA’s new X-Ray observatory in 2021

Launch Black Hole Spacecraft NASA SpaceX

IXPE will also prove beneficial in the study of phenomena such as active galactic nuclei, magnetars (a type of neutron star with a particularly powerful magnetic field) and pulsar wind nebulae (nebulae found inside the remnants of supernovae), TechCrunch reported.

NASA has awarded a new contract to SpaceX that involves visiting and closely studying supermassive black holes. "To date, SpaceX has completed 74 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions, including two for NASA's Launch Services Program, Jason-3 and TESS", James Gleeson, a spokesperson for SpaceX, told Newsweek.

NASA has selected the company that will assist in launching what the space agency refers to as a "groundbreaking astrophysics mission". The observatory will be launched aboard a Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, and liftoff is planned for April 2021.

NASA has awarded the launch services contract for the agency's Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission to SpaceX. It will also focus on the remains of a supernova known as pulsar wind nebulae. In total, the mission is slated to cost $188 million. As per the report, it likely won't take the entire payload of the rocket.

More news: Japan's asteroid probe Hayabusa2 set for final touchdown

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, and COO said in a statement that the company is honored by NASA's continual trust in their proven launch rockets to send valuable science cargo to orbit. The ICON contract is worth $56.3 million as per NASA's announcement back in 2014. The most recent to be announced was for a NASA mission, one that serves to demonstrate that the company's 74 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy flights - has not gone unnoticed.

The IXPE mission was chosen in 2017 as one of NASA's minor astrophysics projects.

"We can not directly image what's going on near objects like black holes and neutron stars, but studying the polarization of X-rays emitted from their surrounding environments reveals the physics of these enigmatic objects", Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division, said in a statement at the time, adding that the project "will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through". "In addition to IXPE, SpaceX's future launch manifest includes NASA's LSP missions SWOT, Sentinel-6A, and DART".

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