SpaceX Falcon 9 wins NASA contract to launch Black Hole spacecraft


NASA awarded a launch contract to Elon Musk’s
SpaceX rocket company for the launch of a small astrophysics mission as the company
offered a Falcon 9 at a lower price than a much smaller rocket. NASA has selected a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
to launch the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission from pad 39A at the Kennedy
Space Center in Florida in April 2021, bypassing Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus
rocket for the task. Intriguingly, IXPE was originally planned
to launch on Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman’s) Pegasus XL but NASA never followed through
with a launch contract. The move to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is
likely related to the extremely disruptive and expensive launch delays NASA’s Ionospheric
Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft has suffered at the hands of its Pegasus XL rocket. Capable of launching less than 450 kg (1000
lb) to low Earth orbit, Pegasus XL has been lucky to launch annually over the last decade
or so and carries a price tag of no less than $50M-$60M today. In this video Engineering Today will discuss
the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, which NASA awarded for launch to
SpaceX. Why SpaceX contracted by NASA to launch this
black hole and neutron star research craft, bypassing Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus rocket? Let’s get into details. NASA said in a press release “the total
cost to the agency for the IXPE launch is $50.3 million, which includes the launch itself
and other “mission-related” costs. The value of the IXPE launch contract is one
of the most concrete examples of SpaceX’s progress in reducing launch costs by recovering
and reusing first stage boosters. That cost is significantly less than NASA’s
most recent launch contract with SpaceX in April 11 for the launch of the Double Asteroid
Redirection Test (DART) mission. NASA awarded SpaceX, selecting a Falcon 9
rocket to loft the agency’s DART mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
in mid-2021. A NASA spokesperson said that contract, valued
at $69 million, has provisions for SpaceX to build a new first stage booster. NASA’s Launch Services Program, which oversees
procurement of launch vehicles for NASA’s research satellites, has awarded SpaceX contracts
for six missions to date. Before DART, the last mission awarded to SpaceX
was for the launch of the Sentinel 6A ocean altimetry mission in November 2020 from California. That contract, announced in October 2017,
was valued at $97 million. The launch contract for the IXPE mission announced
Monday permits SpaceX to use a previously-flown first stage, according Tracy Young, a NASA
spokesperson. The terms of commercial launch contracts are
often not publicly released, but satellite operators have said they received financial
discounts from SpaceX when launching their payloads on previously-flown boosters. SpaceX typically charges more to U.S. government
customers, such as NASA or the U.S. Air Force, because of the government’s oversight and
mission assurance requirements. NASA didn’t state if IXPE would share the
launch with one or more other customers. The agency previously said that the DART launch
would be a dedicated mission. NASA, though, could add its own small sat
secondary payloads to the launch if there is excess capacity. It’s unlikely that IXPE will make use of
the full payload performance of the SpaceXFalcon 9. The spacecraft has a mass of 300 kilograms,
according to a mission fact sheet. The Falcon 9 can place up to 22,800 kilograms
into low Earth orbit, although that performance will be reduced somewhat to achieve the zero-degree
inclination of IXPE’s orbit, at an altitude of 540 kilometers. “SpaceX is honored that NASA continues to
place its trust in our proven launch vehicles to deliver important science payloads to orbit,”
said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. “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.” Base on the fact sheet, as well as other documents
about IXPE, during the mission’s preliminary design phase, engineers assumed IXPE would
launch on Northrop Grumman’s air-dropped Pegasus XL rocket. The IXPE spacecraft, built by Ball Aerospace,
was designed to fit inside the Pegasus rocket’s payload fairing envelope, and will weigh about
660 pounds at the time of launch. IXPE is designed to fly in an unusual 335-mile-high
(540-kilometer) equatorial orbit, at an inclination of 0 degrees, to minimize the X-ray instrument’s
exposure to radiation in the South Atlantic Anomaly, the region where the inner Van Allen
radiation belt comes closest to Earth’s surface. The air-launched Pegasus XL rocket could have
sent the IXPE spacecraft into such an orbit from a position over the Pacific Ocean near
Kwajalein Atoll, the remote staging point for four previous Pegasus missions. But, counterintuitively, using the Pegasus
would have likely cost more than the much largerSpaceX Falcon 9. The only mission on the manifest for Northrop
Grumman’s Pegasus XL is the launch of NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON,
spacecraft. Defying its small size, Pegasus XL was originally
scheduled to launch ICON in December 2017. Delayed by unspecified problems with launch
vehicle hardware, the mission was pushed back an inexplicable 10 months to October 2018,
where additional issues with the rocket again indefinitely scrubbed a launch attempt. In early 2019, the launch was tentatively
scheduled for Q2 2019, while – as of July – ICON is not expected to launch before
September 2019. All said and done, in the increasingly unlikely
event that Pegasus XL is ready for launch this September, the ICON spacecraft – ready
for launch since late-2017 – will have been delayed more than 21 months by problems with
the rocket. Again, for the small-scale performance of
Pegasus XL, the rocket still carries a price tag of more than $50M – NASA’s ICON launch
contract was valued at more than $56M. Conscious of this, SpaceX has managed to sway NASA to
launch the small IXPE spacecraft on a flight-proven Falcon 9 at a cost of just $50.3 million,
easily the lowest SpaceXFalcon 9 launch contract cost ever publicized. The Pegasus last launched in December 2016,
and has flown only three times in the last decade. Small science missions in astrophysics, Earth
science and heliophysics had been the primary customers of the Pegasus XL. That source of business for the venerable
rocket, though, could be in jeopardy with NASA’s decision to launch IXPE on the SpaceXFalcon
9, as well as the emergence of low-cost small launch vehicles that could seek certification
from NASA’s Launch Services Program in the near future. The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)
is a future space observatory with three identical telescopes designed to measure the polarization
of cosmic X-rays. The mission will study exotic astronomical
objects and permit mapping the magnetic fields of black holes, neutron stars, pulsars, supernova
remnants, magnetars, quasars, and active galactic nuclei. The high-energy X-ray radiation from these
objects’ surrounding environment can be polarized – vibrating in a particular direction. Studying the polarization of X-rays reveals
the physics of these objects and can provide insights into the high-temperature environments
where they are created The IXPE passed its critical design review
— the point at which a spacecraft’s design is frozen — last year, and engineers proceeded
into full-scale manufacturing of the satellite and its X-ray telescope payload. NASA selected IXPE in January 2017 as part
of its Small Explorers program of astrophysics missions. At the time, NASA said the estimated cost
of the IXPE mission is $188 million, covering development of the spacecraft and its X-ray
telescope payload, a launch vehicle, and two years of operations. After launch, the IXPE spacecraft will extend
a 13-foot (4-meter) boom holding three X-ray mirror modules to direct X-ray light onto
a set of three detectors housed in the main body of the satellite. The Italian Space Agency, ASI, is providing
the X-ray polarization detectors and a ground station for the IXPE mission. The goal of the IXPE mission is to expand
understanding of high-energy astrophysical processes and sources, in support of NASA’s
first science objective in astrophysics: “Discover how the universe works.” By obtaining X-ray polarimetry and polarimetric
imaging of cosmic sources, IXPE addresses two specific science objectives: to determine
the radiation processes and detailed properties of specific cosmic X-ray sources or categories
of sources; and to explore general relativistic and quantum effects in extreme environments. Astronomers hope IXPE will reveal the spin
of black holes, and yield new discoveries about the extreme magnetic fields around a
special type of neutron star called magnetars. In recent months, SpaceX executives have made
comments indicating that Falcon 9’s default base price – likely assuming a flight-proven
booster – is now as low as $50M. July 8th’s NASA launch contract is the first direct confirmation
of that exceptionally affordable pricing, likely also indicating that the base price
for SpaceXFalcon 9 is even lower for commercial customers with less stringent requirements. Barring an unexpected contract between now
and IXPE’s expected April 2021 launch, the mission will probably be the first time that
a dedicated flight-proven SpaceX rocket launches a scientific spacecraft for NASA.

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42 thoughts on “SpaceX Falcon 9 wins NASA contract to launch Black Hole spacecraft

  1. That's Awesome…i cant wait to see Space X take passenger's around the Moon,maybe even be the next moon landing..

  2. SpaceX has Proven Itself more than any other company, to Deliver Missions Safely!, I Believe NASA Knows Who to Trust!! SpaceX All The Way!!!๐Ÿš€๐Ÿ‘‘๐Ÿ’–

  3. How many billions has the US wasted on Orion and SLS, thanks to that dirtbag Alabama Senator Richard Shelby – REPUBLICAN. They always TALK about supporting private enterprise, but that jackass forced NASA to spend gazillions developing that shitty rocket that costs way more than SpaceX rockets and does far less, is way over budget & behind schedule. Republicans blow. Hypocrites. Liars.

  4. Nasa always finds new ways to perpetually milk humanity on flawed pseudo science concepts. Every time I hear the words "General Relativistic" I know we're doomed. If its up to them humanity will spend the rest of eternity on the surface of this Planet, or should I say "Prison Planet". Think I'm joking? Just ask any Physics professor, engineer or anyone in the field: What happens when one rotates the Michelson Interferometer VERTICALLY?

  5. NASA tossing crumbs so Elon dousnt sue them for giving contracts only to their club of military buddies that always go over budget…

  6. Satilites, space craft…jettisioned space poop from the ISS…that astronauts aren't trying to eat…

  7. Go SpaceX. They are simply, the BEST ! โœŒ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ

  8. Oh ffs! You can't have a pressurized system next to a vacuum, without having a physical barrier! You clowns have zero proof whatsoever of space even existing, yet you're gonna feed into the hype/ mainstream/ pseudo science that it does exist… Get this fuqtard pseudo science b. S. Off my my fkn recommended… Space can not exist, so why is this trash in my fkn feed?!

  9. Okay. Big Deal. What other company besides SpaceX, has it's hands in the pockets of everyone on Capitol Hill? Personally, I woulda gone with Stratolaunch or Blue Origin or Orbital Science. Seems Elon, has developed a monopoly.

  10. Will this decision of NASA have any impact on US Air force ?
    Surely I think Spacex will also win the US Air force contracts too!

  11. The space debris has to
    be cleaned up…it would be bad enough if part of a satilite destroyed a satilite…even worse if frozen space poo the astronauts weren't able to eat and thrown out into space and damaged a ship…

  12. Imagine Elon commentating on a space tourism trip( if they can finish the ship and remember to build a booster)…theres a constellation, that's the ISS, and traveling past us is some frozen space poo at 27000 km per hr…

  13. I am very very small youtber BTW I your channel very much , you are my inspiration for creating my own YouTube channel . I just need your support ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™

    Chandra observatory telescope update :Right Chandra is studying a black hole in Ursa Major! Nearby in the sky is this galaxy, M81. About 11.6 million light years from Earth, M81 contains a supermassive black hole roughly 15 times the mass of the one in the center of our Milky Way! Many astronomer said that Nobody knows but imagine if you could use the angular momentum of the galaxy's gravity to throw/assist a ship out towards the next galaxy free.
    Thats so far away from us!
    forces n sizes of the universe can be mesmerazing , With only 280 characters, we can't always fit in the observation time

  14. Putting a 300kg payload on a rocket with a maximum capacity of 23 thousand kg [approximately] will obviously necessitate some adaption to the mission plan and payload contract. NASA should demand a substantial discount especially if they have to share a payload bay with multiple packages. This is a win-win scenario, because it helps NASA boost an emergingย aerospace contractor while helping to prove the reliability of space x vehicles. As the reliability of space x can only increase by successes per launch in a linear fashion, the sheer quantity of successful launches however small becomes important.

  15. NASA should cancel the contract for the ICON mission and put it on a SpaceX rocket. Northrop Grumman managers are nothing more than incompetent thieves who are accustomed to ripping of the U.S. taxpayers!!!

  16. Concepts in getting things to orbit will evolve over time. Possibly Blue Origin and a few others will compete with SpaceX for government and commercial contracts, not to mention the other space agencies around the world. The space market, like the electric car market, is likely to be huge.

  17. Small rocket companies… sit up and take notice. This is what happens when you CANโ€™T land your rockets.

  18. ULA had been price gouging the government for years. SpaceX competition has stopped most of the gouging. ๐Ÿ˜Š

  19. "Much smaller rockets" that nonetheless were capable of performing the "mission" but no doubt don't have quite the same "business model" of a "leased" state-of-the-art launch and "ground control" facility on a USAF "air base" occupied and "operated" by a "privately-owned" so-called "commercial space exploration company" that when "denied" state of the art facilities AND access to all the other "public domain" and "government-subsidized" resources like "intellectual property" going back to the "NACA" days and including trillions of "taxpayer dollars" worth of "retired" and "proposed" and "canceled" hardware "plans" and "blueprints" and "software" going back to IBM "punchcard" mainframe "calculations" for "orbital mechanics" AND the ability to "acquire" and "engineer" and "develop" its "spacecraft" with RESTRICTED "materials" and of course "political support" in the "largest" states in the U.S. by population, economy and "public-private partnerships" and oh BTW "military spending" and "federal government subsidies" as "SpaceX", so are "too expensive" in terms of overall "mission cost" and get "outbid" by a SpaceX "heavy" rocket "booster" which for some reason STILL "costs" well over DOUBLE the constantly-cited "$20 million launch cost" SpaceX has been "advertising" for…ever. Obviously "profit" is a necessity
    for "businesses" to stay "in business" but that's still more than double the ever-cited "published MSRP" and you'd THINK that since WE OWN THE "LAUNCH FACILITY" as well as EVERY "SpaceX" LEASED facility where actual "rocket science" and "aerospace engineering and manufacturing" that have been "commercially successful" has been/is conducted, we'd get a "discount" on a launch that's "scheduled" for "no earlier than" whatever "date" in 2021. You'd also think the "largest" so-called "commercial space exploration company" would be "engineering" some much "smaller" and thus way easier to "recover" rocket "boosters" as well. They'd be much more "portable" as well.

    You'd also think SpaceX would be "building" its own much more "efficient" and "specialized" and "centralized" commercial space exploration "facilities" as well. A "Gigafactory" for "spacecraft", so to speak. You can't call "leased" facilities an "asset" period and any money you "invest" in leased "property" is "lost" if it's put into "permanent improvements" or is "depreciated out" and/or not "worth" taking with you when you vacate the premises. And if its "unapproved" so-called "improvement" and is "permanent", guess who isn't getting a "security deposit" back?

  20. Elon Musk argued that an air launch system's increase in performance is not worth the additional complexity and limitations:

    "โ€ฆit seems like…you're high up there and so surely that's good and you're going at…0.7 or 0.8 Mach and you've got some speed and altitude, you can use a higher expansion ratio on the nozzle, doesn't all that add up to a meaningful improvement in payload to orbit?

    "The answer is no, it does not, unfortunately. It's quite a small improvement. It's maybe a 5% improvement in payload to orbit…and then you've got this humungous plane to deal with. Which is just like having a stage. From SpaceX's standpoint, would it make more sense to have a gigantic plane or to increase the size of the first stage by five percent? Uhh, I'll take option two.

    "And then, once you get beyond a certain scale, you just can't make the plane big enough. When you drop…the rocket, you have the slight problem that you're not going the right direction. If you look at what Orbital Sciences did with Pegasus, they have a delta wing to do the turn maneuver but then you've got this big wing that's added a bunch of mass and you've able to mostly, but not entirely, convert your horizontal velocity into vertical velocity, or mostly vertical velocity, and the net is really not great."

  21. And Defense updates has a new channel for me to subscribe to ! Just found it guys, voice works great here as well.

  22. What ร  waste of money. Rather just build a massive ship for 1000 people and send them is all directions

  23. I can't wait for Star Ship it is going to revolutionize the whole launch industry by bring people satellites and cargo anywhere in near space and it is completely reusable

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