NASA Contracted SpaceX to Launch Its IXPE Mission

NASA has just signed a new contract with SpaceX, which requests the launch of the space agency’s X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE). The IXPE mission could allow researchers to unveil the unknown behind black holes and neutron stars.

The research probe will examine polarized light from sources such as neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae, and the aforementioned black holes. IXPE mission will provide more imaging to complete the currently existing observation resources based on space.

The mission will also help astronomers in the research of magnetars, which is a particular type of neutron star with especially powerful magnetic fields. The expedition will also look into black holes and pulsar wind nebulae, which are nebula existing within the remnants of a supernova.

It is SpaceX’s Sixth Contracted Mission With NASA

SpaceX will launch the IXPE mission onboard on a fight-proven Falcon 9. Approximately $50.3 million is the cost of the total contract. The take-off will take place in April 2021 if everything goes right. The rocket will launch from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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. IXPE will be SpaceX’s sixth contracted expedition under NASA’s LSP. Two of these missions were successfully launched back in 2016 and 2018. These expeditions grew the space agency’s scientific observational capacities, Shotwell added.

The IXPE mission was chosen in 2017 as one of NASA’s minor astrophysics projects. Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, released a statement back then. He said in the report that the agency cannot capture images of what is happening near objects. These objects include black holes and neutron stars. However, observing the polarization of X-rays generated from their surrounding environments unveils the physics of these mysterious objects. Hertz also said that this project would give astronomers some insights on the universe.

This mission is just one of several upcoming launches SpaceX has agreed to carry out for NASA. SpaceX’s launches include NASA’s commercial resupply missions regularly performed for the International Space Station.​

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