SpaceX Will Launch NASA’s X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer Spacecraft To Study Cosmic Bodies Like Black Holes & Neutron Stars

SpaceX Will Launch NASA’s X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer Spacecraft To Study Cosmic Bodies Like Black Holes & Neutron Stars

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). 


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. 


VIDEO: Learn More About NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer Spacecraft




Featured Image Source: NASA

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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