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NASA Awards SpaceX $50 Million Launch Contract

11 July 2019

For the upcoming project, SpaceX will turn to its veteran spacecraft Falcon 9 to carry NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) research vessel. You'd be surprised to find out it's actually less than the previous contract the space agency awarded SpaceX back in April, for the launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission.

The total launch cost for the mission has been listed at $50.3 million.

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The mission critical design review (M-CDR) of NASA's Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) space-based astrophysics observatory was recently completed at Ball Aerospace's Boulder, Colorado, facility.

This mission cost less simply because SpaceX will be using a first stage booster that had previously been used. IXPE will be the lightest payload to ever launch on a Falcon 9, weighing in at only 710 lbs (320 Kg).

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"SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to place its belief in our proven launch automobiles to ship necessary science payloads to orbit", Gwynne Shotwell, president, and chief operating officer of SpaceX stated in a company statement.

NASA has awarded SpaceX a contract to launch an advanced new observatory that will enable scientists to study some of the most exotic objects in the universe in unprecedented detail. The IXPE rocket is created to fly at a distance of 540 kilometers to the equatorial orbit at an inclination of 0 degrees.

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Small science missions in astrophysics, Earth science and heliophysics had been the primary customers of the Pegasus XL. NASA has yet to announce a new launch date for ICON. The PUNCH mission was supposed to be executed on a rocket by Pegasus but the agency made a decision to launch it in a different spacecraft. The spacecraft will measure the polarization of X-rays from a variety of sources, from pulsars to active galactic nuclei. Astronomers are expecting a lot from the IXPE mission as they are hoping that it will help them in revealing the spin of black holes and help them in the new discoveries about the extreme magnetic fields around a special type of neutron star called magnetars.

NASA Awards SpaceX $50 Million Launch Contract