NASA Awards SpaceX A Contract To Launch Black Hole Spacecraft

Katie Ramirez
July 11, 2019

NASA awarded Hawthorne-based SpaceX a $50.3 million contract to launch three space telescopes in 2021. The agreement proved to be SpaceX's most epic progress in producing a spacecraft whose first stage booster can be reused as it turned out cost-cutting as well.

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

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.

This mission is just one of several upcoming launches SpaceX has agreed to carry out for NASA. NASA's most recent Pegasus XL contract, awarded in November 2014 for the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission, had a total cost of $56.4 million. NASA has yet to announce a new launch date for ICON. 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.

For the IXPE mission, NASA aims to obtain a deeper understanding of how supermassive black holes are formed and how they affect their surroundings including their host galaxy.

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"SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to place its belief in our proven launch automobiles to ship necessary science payloads to orbit", Gwynne Shotwell, president, and chief operating officer of SpaceX stated in a company statement.

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

The research probe will examine polarized light from sources such as neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae, and the aforementioned black holes. Pulsers are the dense collapsed remains which are left behind after the explosion of the stars.

"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".

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