This week, after having spent just over a month in space, IXPE began science operations. The observatory’s boom was deployed successfully on Dec. 15, and the team then spent three weeks checking out the observatory’s maneuvering and pointing abilities and aligning the telescopes. On Jan. 11, IXPE began observing its first official scientific target: Cassiopeia A. Those observations will last about three weeks. Learn more.
NASA’s newest X-ray observatory – the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE – extended its boom successfully Dec. 15, giving IXPE the ability to see high-energy X-rays. The mission, which launched on Dec. 9, is one step closer to studying some of the most energetic and mysterious places in the universe in a new way.
The IXPE observatory features three identical telescopes, each with a mirror assembly and a polarization-sensitive detector. To focus X-rays, IXPE’s mirrors need to be about 13 feet (4 meters) away from the detectors. That’s too large to fit inside some rocket fairings. So IXPE’s boom had to fold up, like origami, into a 12-inch (0.3-meter) cannister and stretch out again in orbit.
“For those of us in the space game, moving parts are always frightening,” said Martin Weisskopf, IXPE’s principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “Right now, I’m smiling from ear to ear.”
With the boom now deployed, mission specialists are ready to focus on commissioning the telescopes, preparing them for the spacecraft’s first science.
A joint effort with the Italian Space Agency, the IXPE observatory is NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe – supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects.
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We have signal acquisition, meaning teams are now communicating with NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft, as it embarks on its two-year journey to study changes in the polarization of X-ray light through some of the universe’s most extreme sources, including black holes, dead stars known as pulsars, and more.
“Everything has gone smoothly; we just crossed over Africa and acquired signal of the spacecraft,” said NASA Senior Launch Director Omar Baez. “They’ll start exposing the solar rays and doing their deployments, so you can’t ask for any better than that.”
NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft just reached a major milestone as it successfully separated from the second stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
IXPE will now continue on its journey to study changes in the polarization of X-ray light through some of the universe’s most extreme sources, including black holes, dead stars known as pulsars, and more.
Click here to learn more about the IXPE mission.
We have successful second engine cutoff (SECO) for NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage completed a perfect landing, touching down on the company’s “Just Read the Directions” drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean off of the Florida coast.
Coming up next will be second engine cutoff, or SECO .
The Falcon 9 rocket’s nine Merlin engines have finished their burn for main engine cutoff (MECO), and the first stage has separated from the rocket.
As the second stage continues carrying IXPE on its flight, the rocket’s first stage will attempt a targeted landing on SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read the Directions.” That’s coming up shortly.
3, 2, 1 … LIFTOFF! NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft lights up the early morning Florida sky as it roars off the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on the agency’s first dedicated mission to measuring X-ray polarization.
Sandra Connelly, deputy associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, stated during the mission’s prelaunch media conference: “Understanding our galaxy and our place in the universe is awe inspiring and we want to make sure that we’re inspiring the future generation of our scientists and engineers.”
IXPE is now on its way to play a part in doing just that. Stay right here on the blog, or tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website to watch the spacecraft and rocket eclipse more launch milestones.
NASA Launch Director Tim Dunn gives the final ‘go’ for the agency’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) launch!
The Kennedy Space Center skies soon will be lit up as the Falcon 9 rocket fires up to launch the mission into space.