NASA has awarded SpaceX a contract to launch an advanced new observatory that will enable scientists to study some of the most exotic objects in the universe in unprecedented detail. That source of business for the venerable rocket, though, could be in jeopardy with NASA's decision to launch IXPE on the Falcon 9, as well as the emergence of low-priced small launch vehicles that could seek certification from NASA's Launch Services Program in the near future. IXPE mission will provide more imaging to complete the now existing observation resources based on space.
CAPE CANAVERAL-NASA has awarded SpaceX a $50 million contract to launch an X-ray observatory created to measure polarized light from black holes, neutron stars and other high-energy astrophysical objects.
According to SpaceNews.com, the preliminary launch date has already been established and is expected to take place in April 2021, aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. It will also focus on the remains of a supernova known as pulsar wind nebulae. NASA stated the total value to the company for the launch is $50.three million, which includes the launch itself and different "mission-related" prices. 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. The ICON contract is worth $56.3 million as per NASA's announcement back in 2014.
The IXPE mission was chosen in 2017 as one of NASA's minor astrophysics projects. Now after years of early planning, NASA finally awarded SpaceX a contract to launch the black hole spacecraft.
"SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to place its trust in our proven launch vehicles to deliver important science payloads to orbit", said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer. 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.