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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

SpaceX Launches $214M NASA Satellite to Study Black Holes

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  • NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) launched into space early on Thursday morning.
  • The IXPE was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA said in a statement.
  • It will study high-energy celestial objects such as black holes.

A NASA satellite designed to examine some of the most fascinating objects in the cosmos, including black holes, was successfully launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, NASA said in a press statement.

The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) observatory is a spacecraft developed by NASA in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency. It carries three telescopes designed to measure the polarization of X-rays from high-energy celestial objects. These include black holes and the remnants of supernovas.

This means it will be able to probe the physics behind these mysterious objects.

“IXPE is going to show us the violent universe around us — such as exploding stars and the black holes at the center of galaxies — in ways we’ve never been able to see it,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

The IXPE was launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1 a.m. EST on Thursday, NASA said in its statement. CBS reports the IXPE cost $214 million.

SpaceX shared footage on Twitter of the IXPE separating from the Falcon 9 rocket, floating off into orbit

“It is an indescribable feeling to see something you’ve worked on for decades become real and launch into space,” Martin Weisskopf, IXPE’s principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement.

Space.com reported that at a pre-launch press conference, Weisskopf said IXPE’s first target will be the Crab Nebula, which is the remnants of a dead star.

crab nebula green orange yellow web

The Crab Nebula as imaged by Hubble.

NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

SpaceX has flown multiple missions for NASA, including two fully crewed astronaut missions to the International Space Station. 

NASA also awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract in April to help the agency return to the moon. The contract was legally challenged by Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin, but the US Federal Court of Claims ruled against Blue Origin in November.

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