IXPE in Earth Orbit
Science & Technology

SpaceX Rocket Launches NASA’s IXPE Space Observatory – To Explore the Most Extreme and Mysterious Objects in the Universe

Artist’s illustration of IXPE in Earth orbit. Credit score: NASA

NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission launched at 1 a.m. EST Thursday, December 9, 2021, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Middle in Florida.

A joint effort with the Italian Space Company, the IXPE observatory is NASA’s first mission devoted to measuring the polarization of X-rays from the most excessive and mysterious objects in the universe – supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of different high-energy objects.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches with NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft onboard from Launch Advanced 39A, Thursday, December 9, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Middle in Florida. The IXPE spacecraft is the first satellite tv for pc devoted to measuring the polarization of X-rays from quite a lot of cosmic sources, similar to black holes and neutron stars. Launch occurred at 1 a.m. EST. Credit score: NASA/Joel Kowsky

“IXPE represents one other extraordinary first,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Along with our companions in Italy and round the world, we’ve added a brand new area observatory to our fleet that may form our understanding of the universe for years to come back. Every NASA spacecraft is rigorously chosen to focus on model new observations enabling new science, and IXPE goes to point out us the violent universe round us – similar to exploding stars and the black holes at the heart of galaxies – in methods we’ve by no means been in a position to see it.”

The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer mission launched on December 9, 2021, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Middle in Florida. In area, IXPE will discover the leftovers of exploded stars, black holes, and extra by a particular property of sunshine known as polarization. Credit score: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Middle

The rocket carried out as anticipated, with spacecraft separation going down 33 minutes into flight. Roughly one minute later, the spacecraft unfurled its photo voltaic arrays. IXPE entered its orbit round Earth’s equator at an altitude of roughly 372 miles (600 kilometers). About 40 minutes after launch, mission operators obtained the first spacecraft telemetry information.

NASA’s IXPE spacecraft separates from the second stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, December 9, 2021. Credit score: NASA

“It’s an indescribable feeling to see one thing you’ve labored on for many years turn into actual and launch into area,” stated Martin Weisskopf, IXPE’s principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Middle in Huntsville, Alabama. Weisskopf got here up with the thought for the spacecraft and has performed seminal experiments in X-ray astronomy since the Seventies. “That is simply the starting for IXPE. Now we have a lot work forward. However tonight, we rejoice!”

IXPE carries three state-of-the-art area telescopes with particular polarization-sensitive detectors. Polarization is a property of sunshine that holds clues to the surroundings from which the mild originates. The brand new mission builds on and enhances the scientific discoveries of different telescopes, together with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope. First mild operations are scheduled to start in January.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roars off the launch pad at Launch Advanced 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Middle in Florida at 1 a.m. EST on Thursday, December 9, 2021, carrying NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft. Credit score: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA Marshall manages the IXPE mission for the company’s Science Mission Directorate as a undertaking of the NASA’s Explorers Program. IXPE is a world collaboration between NASA, the Italian Space Company, together with companions and suppliers in 12 different international locations. Marshall constructed the three X-ray telescopes. The Italian Space Company contributed IXPE’s polarization detectors. Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, supplied the spacecraft and manages spacecraft operations at the College of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Explorers Program.

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