SpaceX is ready to launch NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission tonight. The mission will launch a spacecraft designed to unveil more mysteries about the Universe. It will study X-Ray polarization changes in cosmic objects such as: supermassive black holes, supernova remnants, neutron stars, quasars, pulsar wind nebulae, among other high-energy objects in outer space. “IXPE will help us test and refine our current theories of how the universe works. We may even discover more exciting theories about these exotic objects than what we’ve hypothesized,” Dr. Martin Weisskopf, IXPE’s principal investigator, said during a pre-launch conference on Tuesday. “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.”
A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket will propel the IXPE spacecraft to Low Earth Orbit from Launch Pad-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, December 9, during a 90-minute launch window that begins at 1:00 a.m. EST. SpaceX will broadcast the mission Live starting 15-minutes before liftoff. You can watch it in the video linked below.
The Falcon 9’s first-stage booster that will support this mission has previously flown four times. “This booster has launched eight astronauts, three dragon capsules and one geostationary spacecraft,” said Julianna Scheiman, SpaceX’s director of civil satellite missions. “Reusability is key to lowering the cost of launch, which in turn enables greater investment and scientific research." The booster, identified as B1067-5, is filled with scorch marks from reentering Earth’s rough atmosphere multiple times, pictured below. It previously launched a pair of SpaceX crewed missions, Crew-1 & Crew-2, that launched NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. The booster also deployed Sirius SXM-8 satellite to orbit, as well as a Cargo Dragon spacecraft for SpaceX’s 23rd NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-23) mission to the Space Station. Now, it will liftoff a fifth time to launch the IXPE spacecraft. SpaceX engineers aim to reuse Falcon 9 [Block 5] boosters in their fleet at least 10 times. The company will attempt to recover the booster once again by landing it on the ‘Just Read the Instructions’ autonomous droneship that will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean along Florida’s Coast.
Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron forecast a 90% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff. “We’re looking at just a very, very slight chance of a weather issue,” said Mike McAleenan, 45th Weather Squadron, Space Launch Delta 45. “There will be winds out of the west, northwest, and just a slight chance of cumulus clouds to impact the area.” If the launch is delayed, SpaceX scheduled a back-up launch opportunity for Friday, December 10 with the same 90-minute launch window starting at 1:00 a.m. EST.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: SpaceX