"We can not directly image what's going on near objects like black holes and neutron stars, but studying the polarization of X-rays emitted from their surrounding environments reveals the physics of these enigmatic objects", Paul Hertz, director of NASA's astrophysics division, said in a statement at the time, adding that the project "will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through".
The test is scheduled in mid-2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and as per a spokesperson from NASA, the contract is worth $69 million which also includes the production of a new first stage booster by SpaceX.
In an announcement on the agency's website, NASA reveals that it has awarded SpaceX a $50.3 million launch contract for its X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission.
SpaceX and NASA are like two peas in a pod as of late, with the space program leaning heavily on SpaceX for everything from satellite launches to the eventual launch of crewed missions using the SpaceX Crew Dragon.
NASA hopes that the two-year IXPE mission will help address one of the goals of its Science Directorate "to probe the origin and destiny of our universe, including the nature of black holes, dark energy, dark matter, and gravity". The spacecraft is now being manufactured by Ball Aerospace.
NASA has already awarded several launch contracts to SpaceX. The award, announced July 8, is SpaceX's sixth launch contract for a NASA science mission and its least expensive offering to date.
"SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to place its trust in our proven launch vehicles to deliver important science payloads to orbit", Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said in a company statement.
Patrick Attwell is a native of Houston, Texas but he now resides in Austin, Texas where he studies accounting at Concordia University Texas. The only mission which comes in the name of Northrop Grumman's Pegasus is the launch of NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, spacecraft.
NASA has selected the company that will assist in launching what the space agency refers to as a "groundbreaking astrophysics mission".
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