SpaceX wins NASA contract for launching black hole and neutron star research spacecraft

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Imaging X ray Polarimetry Explorer
Artist's impression of IXPE. On the right are its three identical X-ray optics elements, the sensors are on the left. (Credits - Wikimedia Commons)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX obtained its sixth contracted mission under National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of estimated cost $50.3 million to launch Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE using the First stage booster on a board of Falcon 9 rocket. This explorer space shuttle will investigate the polarized (limited to a single plane) cosmic rays coming from surrounding sources like neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae and supermassive black holes.

This research spacecraft will give a more clear perception of the universe around black holes, neutron stars and a pulsar (remains of an exploded star) that we can’t see. It will help to discover the beginning and destiny of universe and various unknown facts behind black holes and neutron stars.

The IXPE on a board of Falcon 9 rocket will fly into a completely unusual 335-mile-high (540-kilometre) equatorial orbital range with 0-degree inclination. This will reduce its risk to cosmic radiation in the South Atlantic Anomaly where Van Allen radiation belt is closest to earth.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement that SpaceX’s having its sixth contracted mission from NASA’s i.e. IXPE tells that NASA now has faith on SpaceX for placing crucial science payloads in orbit.

Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) comprises of three similar space telescopes with sense detection methodology which will measure the polarisation of cosmic X-rays, allowing scientists to answer fundamental questions about these turbulent environments where gravitational, electric and magnetic fields are at their limits.

The launch is supposed to take place on April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Centre in Florida. The total cost for the contract is around $50.3million (£39million). It will cost much less than the SpaceX mission to launch Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission whose cost was around $69 million because of the previously used First Stage Booster.

 

SpaceX has previously completed 74 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions, including two for NASA’s Launch Services Program, Jason-3 and TESS. Besides IXPE mission, SpaceX’s future launch demonstrate includes NASA’s LSP missions SWOT, Sentinel-6A, and DART.

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