IAC 2022 - Banner

NASA launches its first mission examining X-ray polarization

The launch of IXPE. Image: Image: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Edinburgh, 10 December 2021. – NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission launched yesterday on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA reported. The joint project with the Italian Space Agency will examine exploding stars and black holes, among other space objects.

The observatory is going to measure X-ray polarization from supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and other high-energy objects. IXPE is currently in orbit around Earth’s equator at an altitude of 600 km. Mission operators received the first telemetry data approximately 40 minutes after launch.

IXPE carries three state-of-the-art space telescopes equipped with polarization-sensitive detectors. By examining the polarization of light, scientists will be able to learn more about the environment from which it originates. The mission complements and builds on the discoveries of other telescopes already in operation, including the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

The IXPE mission is managed by NASA Marshall, who also built the three X-ray telescopes. The Italian Space Agency contributed the polarization detectors, while Ball Aerospace provided the spacecraft itself. Ball will be managing spacecraft operations throughout the mission. The observatory is expected to start operations in January.

Check Also

Space Café Radio – on tour in Lausanne – with Prof. Dr. Frank Schaefer

In this Space Café Radio -  SpaceWatch.Global publisher Torsten Kriening spoke with Prof. Dr. Frank Schaefer, Deputy director, head of business unit Space and head of system solutions department at Fraunhofer Ernst-Mach-Institute Freiburg/Germany, at the LEO Kinetic Space Safety Workshop in Lausanne about threats and risks in Low Earth Orbit and how to move forward to a sustainable future in space.