SpaceX has been awarded a new contract by NASA to launch the agency’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE. This research spacecraft will study polarized light from sources including neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae and supermassive black holes, and provide much more imaging than existing space-based observation resources.
The mission will help scientists in the study of magnetars (a specific type of neutron star with especially powerful magnetic fields), black holes and “Pulsar Wind Nebulae,” which are nebula that are found within the remains of supernova.
SpaceX will launch this IXPE mission aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9, and the total cost for the contract is around $50.3 million. The launch will take place in April 2021 per current plans, taking off from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to place its trust in our proven launch vehicles to deliver important science payloads to orbit,” said SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell in a statement. “IXPE will serve as SpaceX’s sixth contracted mission under NASA’s LSP, two of which were successfully launched in 2016 and 2018, increasing the agency’s scientific observational capabilities.”
This is just one of a number of upcoming launches SpaceX is contracted to perform for NASA, including the commercial resupply missions it regularly performs for the International Space Station.