NASA and SpaceX Signed A New Contract for More than $50 Million

James Marshall
July 11, 2019

- SpaceX keeps racking up contractual wins.

"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". That flight is now planned tot take place in April of 2021.

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. If everything goes as planned, it will deliver the spacecraft into a circular 335-mile (540 km) orbit over the Equator. The IXPE rocket is built by Ball Aerospace and the spacecraft was created to fir the Pegasus rocket's payload fairing envelope and its weight is going to be around 300 kilograms during the launch. In total, the mission is slated to cost $188 million.

NASA selected IXPE in January 2017 as part of its Small Explorers program of astrophysics missions. Once launched, IXPE will measure polarized X-rays from black holes, neutron stars and more.

"IXPE is an excellent example of an integrated team comprising government, industry and academia focused on a common objective to deliver exciting and important science - the kind of work Ball loves to do", said Dr. Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace.

That price is significantly less than a NASA contract awarded to SpaceX April 11 for the launch of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission in June 2021 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That supply of business for the venerable rocket, though, could be in jeopardy with NASA's decision to launch IXPE on the Falcon 9, as well as the emergence of low-priced small launch vehicles that would seek certification from NASA's Launch Services Program within the near future. Atwell has had a passion for all things pertaining to aerospace, rocketry, and aviation. 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".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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