SpaceX and NASA Just Launched a Telescope to Measure the Universe’s X-Rays

by Michael Freeman
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SpaceX and NASA have a history of collaborations and the list continues to grow. Earlier today, the two organizations launched a telescope used to measure the universe’s X-rays into space.

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at 1 a.m. EST this morning. This payload was a bit different from the norm, though, and actually was the smallest ever for the Falcon 9. Inside is NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), the Orlando Sentinel reports. As usual, SpaceX streamed the launch and even tweeted it for those unable to watch live.

The IXPE observatory is equipped with telescopes and measurement tools. Specifically, these tools will measure X-rays emitted from distant celestial bodies. Black holes, supernovas, and neutron stars are but a few things it will examine. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center heads the mission.

Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, expressed his excitement about the launch. “IXPE represents another extraordinary first. Together with our partners in Italy and around the world, we’ve added a new space observatory to our fleet that will shape our understanding of the universe for years to come.”

It’s just as exciting a time for SpaceX as it is NASA. The company recently said at its current rate, it could support up to 60 Falcon 9 launches a year. Additionally, provided there are no delays or problems, the company could also launch 10 Falcon Heavy rockets.

This mission serves as the fifth part of NASA’s Launch Services Program. This program also involved the organization launching the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission last month from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

NASA Wanted Bruce Willis to Attend Rocket Launch for Mission Resembling ‘Armageddon’s’ Plot

The mentioned Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission began a few weeks ago in November. Its mission is to divert an asteroid that could theoretically hit the Earth in the future. If it sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ve seen or heard of the movie Armageddon. Recognizing the similarities, NASA invited Bruce Willis to attend the rocket’s launch.

Space reporter for The Washington Post Christian Davenport naturally covers space-related news. Weeks ago when the DART mission occurred, he tweeted news stating NASA actually invited Bruce Willis to attend the rocket’s launch. Sadly, for whatever reason, the actor couldn’t attend.

“In an interview, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the agency invited Bruce Willis to the launch of the asteroid redirect mission because of his role in “Armageddon.” Nelson said he’s not going but “we didn’t want to miss that connection,” Davenport tweeted.

To clarify, missions like this aren’t nearly as urgent as the situation in Armageddon. Nancy Chabot, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University, told Space.com “This is something that you would do five, 10, 15, 20 years in advance — gently nudge the asteroid so it just sails merrily on its way and doesn’t impact the Earth.”

Nonetheless, the mission itself is fascinating.

Outsider.com