On July 19, SpaceX was awarded a NASA Launch Services (NLS) II contract to launch the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope mission on a Falcon Heavy rocket. "NLS II is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract. "The total cost for NASA to launch the Roman telescope is approximately $255 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs," the agency said in a press release. The telescope is designed to study astrophysical phenomena, the effects of dark energy and dark matter, and to enable the exploration of distant exoplanets. "The telescope was previously known as the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST), but it was later renamed in honor of Dr. Nancy Grace Roman for her extraordinary work at NASA, which paved the way for large space telescopes," said NASA.
SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch the telescope until October 2026 from Launch Complex-39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Falcon Heavy is currently the world’s most powerful operational rocket, composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines generate over 5.1 million pounds upon liftoff. To date, the Falcon Heavy has only flown three times. SpaceX plans to conduct multiple missions with the powerful rocket this year.
Falcon Heavy will propel the 4.63-ton (4,200 kilograms) Roman Space Telescope approximately 1.5 million kilometers away from the Earth and the Sun, the region is known as the Earth-Sun L-2 Lagrange Point (pictured below). The James Webb Space Telescope currently operates from that L2 region. Lagrange points are positions in space where spacecraft can stay in the same position because the gravitational pull of two large masses (Earth and the Sun) precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small telescope to move with them. These points are used by NASA because it helps reduce fuel consumption needed to remain in the same position for cosmic observations.
Images Source: NASA
Featured Image Source: SpaceX