SpaceX will launch NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) science mission, that will deploy a spacecraft designed to study cosmic X-Ray polarization changes in celestial objects such as supermassive black holes, supernova remnants, neutron stars, quasars, pulsar wind nebulae, among other hugh-energy objects in outer space. Collecting data will enable astronomers to see, unseen environment surrounding these objects.
Today, December 4, SpaceX conducted a static-firing of the flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the IXPE spacecraft to orbit. “Static fire test complete – targeting Thursday, December 9 at 1:00 a.m. ET for Falcon 9’s launch of NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer mission,” the company announced. It will liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex-39A. During the static-fire, engineers briefly ignited Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines the vehicle remained grounded to the launch pad. The test is performed to ensure that all ground systems and the booster are working optimally to conduct a reflight; the IXPE deployment will be its fifth launch. The first-stage Falcon 9 booster, identified as B1061.5, previously supported SpaceX’s first operational crewed flight for NASA, known as Crew-1, to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as NASA's Crew-2 mission. It also propelled to orbit Sirius SXM-8 satellite and delivered Cargo Dragon to ISS during SpaceX’s 23rd Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-23).
Static fire test complete – targeting Thursday, December 9 at 1:00 a.m. ET for Falcon 9’s launch of @NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 4, 2021
This will also be the fifth flight for this Falcon 9’s first stage booster, which previously supported launch of Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, and CRS-23 pic.twitter.com/uHHongbsk1— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 4, 2021
The IXPE spacecraft will be integrated atop the Falcon 9 rocket inside the payload fairing next week. The Falcon 9 rocket is expected to return to the company’s nearby hangar, located a quarter-mile South of Launch Pad-39A for a horizontal integration. Then by Tuesday, the Falcon 9 is scheduled to return to the launch pad and go into vertical position ahead of liftoff on Thursday.
NASA scientists are excited to get the IXPE spacecraft to orbit, to uncover more mysteries about the Universe. “The launch of IXPE marks a bold and unique step forward for X-ray astronomy,” said Dr. Martin Weisskopf, IXPE’s principal investigator. “IXPE will tell us more about the precise nature of cosmic X-ray sources than we can learn by studying their brightness and color spectrum alone.”
“IXPE will help us test and refine our theories of how the universe works,” Weisskopf said. “There may be even more exciting answers ahead than the ones we’ve hypothesized. Better yet, we may find whole lists of new questions to ask!” The IXPE spacecraft features powerful new X-ray vision technology built by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and polarization detectors developed by Italy Space Agency. IXPE is equipped with three identical telescopes that have ‘a set of nested, cylinder-shaped mirrors that collect X-rays and feed them to a detector, which takes a picture of incoming X-rays and measures both the amount and direction of polarization.’ “This is going to be groundbreaking in terms of X-ray data acquisition,” Weisskopf said. “We’ll be analyzing the results for decades to come.” Watch the NASA video linked below to learn more.
The #IXPE mission is undergoing final processing in preparation for launch next week! 🚀— NASA's Launch Services Program (@NASA_LSP) December 3, 2021
This mission to study x-ray polarization will launch aboard a #Falcon9 from @NASAKennedy on Dec. 9. Follow the #CountdownToLaunch: https://t.co/u8FVP8hIIp pic.twitter.com/3IRtPo7mRC
VIDEO: Learn More About NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer Spacecraft
Featured Image Source: NASA