NASA has awarded SpaceX a contract to provide launch services for the agency’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, which could one day allow astronomers to uncover the mysteries behind black holes and neutron stars. This is the sixth contract the company has won through NASA’s Lunch Service Program.
The estimated cost to launch IXPE is approximately $50.3 million, which includes the launch service and other mission-related costs, according to the U.S. space agency.
The IXPE mission is an addition to NASA’s stable of X-ray telescopes that were selected back in 2017.
The mission is planning to launch three space telescopes with sensitive detectors that are capable of analyzing the polarization of cosmic X-rays. This will allow scientists to answer fundamental questions about these turbulent environments where gravitational, electric and magnetic fields are at their limits.
The new observatory will be launched aboard a Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, and liftoff is planned for April 2021.