NASA’s IXPE mission marks another win in SpaceX’s contract column
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX keeps racking up contractual wins. The most recent to be announced was for a NASA mission, one that serves to demonstrate that the company’s 74 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy flights – has not gone unnoticed.
NASA announced on Monday July 8, 2019 that SpaceX had won the contract to launch the Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft. That flight is currently planned tot take place in April of 2021.
A flight-proven Falcon 9 has been tapped to launch IXPE from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If everything goes as planned, it will deliver the spacecraft into a circular 335-mile (540 km) orbit over the Equator. IXPE will be the lightest payload to ever launch on a Falcon 9, weighing in at only 710 lbs (320 Kg).
The total launch cost for the mission has been listed at $50.3 million.
IXPE is a part of NASA’s Small explorer class of missions. The spacecraft is composed of three X-ray telescopes that will look for polarized X-rays from black holes, pulsars, and neutron stars. It has a planned mission life of two years. The spacecraft is currently being manufactured by Ball Aerospace.
SpaceX’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Gwynne Shotwell, made the following statement after the announcement of the contract award.
“SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to place its trust in our proven launch vehicles to deliver important science payloads to orbit. 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.”
Given the prices SpaceX charges to send payloads to orbit, the Hawthorne, California-based company is being awarded more and more contracts. Two missions, Jason-3 and TESS have already taken to the skies atop one of SpaceX’s offerings under the agency’s Launch Services Program (LSP). The company has also been awarded the contracts for the SWOT, Sentinel-6A, and DART missions.
Patrick Attwell is a native of Houston, Texas but he currently resides in Austin, Texas where he studies accounting at Concordia University Texas. Atwell has had a passion for all things pertaining to aerospace, rocketry, and aviation. Atwell has worked to cover these fields for more than a decade. After he attended and watched the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission it gave him what is known in the space community as “rocket fever.” Since that time, Atwell has followed his dreams and has covered events dealing with NASA’s Commercial Crew flight assignments at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and other space-related events in the Lone Star State.