Welcome to Live Coverage of the IXPE Launch!

IXPE spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on launch pad
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, carrying NASA’s IXPE spacecraft, stands ready at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Image credit: NASA

Happy late Wednesday evening, and welcome to live coverage of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft mission from Florida’s Space Coast!

Standing tall atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, IXPE is set to lift off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in just about 90 minutes (1 a.m. EST, Thursday, Dec. 9). The Launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

Stay right here for a live blog that will take you straight through the launch day events. Or, tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website, starting at 12:30 a.m. EST, for a live broadcast.

It has been all good news on the weather front thus far, but we will keep you posted on any updates from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron prior to launch of NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization.

NASA’s IXPE’s Launch Boosted by Experience

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and IXPE spacecraft
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft rolls out to Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 7, 2021. Photo credit: SpaceX

The rocket booster that will power NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft into the sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in just a matter of hours has been there many times before.

“This booster has launched eight astronauts, three dragon capsules and one geostationary spacecraft,” said Julianna Scheiman, SpaceX’s director of civil satellite missions. “Reusability is key to lowering the cost of launch, which in turn enables greater investment and scientific research.”

After launching IXPE into space, the booster will be brought back and landed on the SpaceX drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” off the coast of Florida.

IXPE is scheduled to lift off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Florida spaceport’s Launch Complex 39A on Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy. Tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website for a live broadcast – or stay right here for a live blog to take you through the launch day events.

Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a 90% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff, with the cumulus cloud rule serving as the primary weather concern.

“We’re looking at just a very, very slight chance of a weather issue,” said Mike McAleenan, 45th Weather Squadron, Space Launch Delta 45. “There will be winds out of the west, northwest, and just a slight chance of cumulus clouds to impact the area.”

IXPE will study the polarization of X-rays coming to us from some of the universe’s most extreme sources, including black holes and dead stars known as pulsars. Since its arrival in Florida last month, the spacecraft has undergone several tests and eclipsed multiple milestones at Kennedy, including final processing, mating to the rocket, and encapsulation. On Tuesday, the rocket and spacecraft were transported to the launch pad and raised to the vertical position.

Stay connected with the mission on social media, and let people know you’re following it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram using the hashtag #IXPE and tag these accounts:

Twitter: @NASA@NASASocial@NASA_LSP@NASA_Marshall,
NASA_Kennedy@NASAUniverse
Facebook: NASANASA LSP, NASA MarshallCenter, NASAKennedy, NASAUniverse
Instagram: NASANASASolarSystemNASA_MarshallNASAKennedy

IXPE Launch Broadcast Early Thursday, NASA EDGE Show Today

Falcon 9 rocket and IXPE spacecraft at the launch pad
NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stand tall at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Dec. 7, 2021. Photo credit: SpaceX

Live coverage of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft launch from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida begins at 12:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 9. Tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website for a live broadcast – or stay right here for a live blog to take you through the launch day events.

At 11:30 a.m. today, NASA EDGE will host the IXPE rollout show. The program will air live on NASA TV, the agency’s website and YouTube.

IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A at 1 a.m. EST on Dec. 9. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

IXPE will study the polarization of X-rays coming to us from some of the universe’s most extreme sources, including black holes and dead stars known as pulsars.

NASA selected IXPE as a Small Explorer mission in 2017. The IXPE project is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama manages the IXPE mission. Ball Aerospace, headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, manages spacecraft operations with support from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Explorers Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Launch Readiness Review Concludes: IXPE a ‘Go’ for Thursday

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA's IXPE spacecraft
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft atop, rolls out to the pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida on Dec. 7, 2021. The launch is targeted for Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST. Photo credit: SpaceX

Teams from NASA and SpaceX completed a launch readiness review ahead of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission. The result: launch teams are a “go” for liftoff of NASA’s first satellite dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization.

IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

IXPE will study targets over a broad range of types of astronomical X-ray sources with emphasis on black holes and neutron stars. The mission will achieve high-sensitivity measurements of the polarization of X-rays coming from astronomical objects, including neutron stars and black holes.

Click here to learn more about the IXPE mission.

NASA’s IXPE Rolls out to Launch Pad at Kennedy

IXPE rollout at Kennedy Space Center
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft, rolls out to Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 7, 2021. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, rolled out of Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A hangar to the launch pad on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 12:46 p.m. EST. The rocket and spacecraft are expected to go vertical this evening.

NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization, IXPE is targeted to lift off from Kennedy on Thursday at 1 a.m. EST. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

The IXPE spacecraft includes three space telescopes with sensitive detectors capable of measuring the polarization of cosmic X-rays, allowing scientists to answer fundamental questions about extremely complex environments in space where gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields are at their limits. The project is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency.

On Dec. 9, starting at 12:30 a.m. EST, tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website for a live broadcast – or stay right here for a live blog to take you through the launch day events.

Watch NASA Coverage of IXPE Events Today

NASA's Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer spacecraft
NASA’s IXPE spacecraft will 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.

NASA will provide coverage of today’s prelaunch activities for the agency’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft, targeted to lift off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

Today’s events will be broadcast on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Live launch coverage will begin Thursday at 12:30 a.m.

First up today is the IXPE payload briefing, starting at 1 p.m. EST, with the following participants:

  • Elisabetta Cavazzuti, ASI IXPE program manager, Italian Space Agency
  • Luca Baldini, Italian co-principal investigator, National Institute for Nuclear Physics
  • Brian Ramsey, deputy principal investigator, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
  • MacKenzie Ferrie, IXPE program manager, Ball Aerospace

At 5:30 p.m. EST today is the IXPE prelaunch news conference, featuring the following participants:

  • Sandra Connelly, deputy associate administrator for science, NASA Headquarters
  • Martin Weisskopf, IXPE principal investigator, Marshall
  • Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, civil space, Ball Aerospace
  • Tim Dunn, launch director, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Julianna Scheiman, director, civil satellite missions, SpaceX
  • Mike McAleenan, 45th Weather Squadron, Space Launch Delta 45

IXPE will 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. The mission is NASA’s first dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization.

Click here to learn more about the IXPE mission.

Weather Improves to 90% Favorable for Thursday’s IXPE Launch

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)
NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft has eclipsed multiple key milestones recently at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The weather outlook for Thursday’s early morning launch of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center bumped up in a positive direction. Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron now predict a 90% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff, increasing by 10% from a day ago. The cumulus cloud rule is the primary weather concern.

IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Florida spaceport’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 9, 2021, at 1 a.m. EST. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

IXPE is the first satellite dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources, such as black holes and neutron stars.

Today, NASA will hold an IXPE payload briefing at 1 p.m. and a prelaunch news briefing at 5:30 p.m. Both will be broadcast on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Live launch coverage will begin Dec. 9 at 12:30 a.m.

Weather 80% Favorable for Thursday’s IXPE Launch

Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron predict an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for Thursday’s early morning launch of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft from the Space Coast, with the cumulus cloud rule and thick cloud layer rule serving as the primary weather concerns.

IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 9, 2021, at 1 a.m. EST. IXPE will study the polarization of X-rays coming to us from some of the universe’s most extreme sources, including black holes and dead stars known as pulsars.

The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, NASA will hold an IXPE payload briefing at 1 p.m. and a prelaunch news briefing at 5:30 p.m. Live launch coverage will begin Dec. 9 at 12:30 a.m. All will be broadcast on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Spacecraft, Rocket Come Together for IXPE Mission

IXPE spacecraft encapsulation
NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft and nose fairing are brought together for encapsulation inside SpaceX’s Payload Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 2, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft recently eclipsed multiple key milestones at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Following a series of “aliveness” tests to verify the health of the spacecraft, teams mated the structure to the payload adapter – a ring that interfaces between the spacecraft and the top of the rocket. Next, multi-layer insulation was installed to provide thermal protection for the spacecraft in space.

After items such as optic and sensitive instrument covers were removed, the nose fairing and the spacecraft were brought together, signaling a major achievement in the mission: encapsulation.

“This is when you mate the spacecraft to the rocket, so it’s the two halves coming together,” said Brett Perkins, launch site integration manager for NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy. “There are several critical lifting operations of the spacecraft. You have to be very careful and methodical; a lot of hardware comes together during this timeframe.”

The mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. IXPE is the first satellite dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources, such as black holes and neutron stars.

“IXPE is filling a data gap in polarized X-rays, which we don’t have a lot of information on,” Perkins said. “This mission is a small part of a bigger picture – a bigger effort – to learn more about the universe and how it works.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, NASA will hold an IXPE payload briefing at 1 p.m. and a prelaunch news briefing at 5:30 p.m. Live launch coverage will begin Dec. 9 at 12:30 a.m. All will be broadcast on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

IXPE Undergoing Final Processing in Preparation for Spacecraft Mate

IXPE spacecraft arrives at Kennedy Space Center
Teams at Kennedy Space Center are doing final checkouts and testing on the Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft. The mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than Thursday, Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST, from the Florida spaceport. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

Weeks of work are paying off for engineers and technicians from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida who have been preparing the agency’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft since its arrival by truck from Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Nov. 5, 2021.

Important activities continue inside SpaceX’s Payload Processing Facility in advance of the next major milestone – mating the spacecraft to the launch vehicle.

“We’ve been doing final checkouts and testing on IXPE prior to mating activities,” said Jake Shriver, mission integration engineer for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy.

IXPE is targeted to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 9, at 1 a.m. EST. The mission is NASA’s first dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization. The launch is managed by LSP.

Following mating of the spacecraft to the launch vehicle will be encapsulation, where the fairing halves come together around the spacecraft. A couple of days before launch, the encapsulated assembly will roll out to the pad to be mated to the first- and second-stage rocket boosters.

IXPE will 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. Polarization contains clues that helps scientists better understand these mysterious phenomena.

“I can’t wait for IXPE to get into space and start returning science data,” Shriver said. “The mission is going to do amazing things for the astrophysics and science communities.”