Key Launch Day Milestones for NASA’s IXPE

NASA's IXPE spacecraft
Tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website, starting at 12:30 a.m. EST for a live broadcast of the IXPE launch. Photo credit: SpaceX

Here is a look at some of the key milestones for today’s IXPE launch:

Mission Timeline (all times approximate)
LAUNCH AND DRAGON DEPLOYMENT
Time                      Events
1 a.m. EST             Liftoff
T+153 sec              First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
T+156 sec              First and second stages separate
T+164 sec              Second stage engine start 1 (SES-1)
T+220 sec              Fairing deploy
8.1 min                    Second stage engine cutoff 1 (SECO-1)
28.7 min                 Second stage engine start 2 (SES-2)
29.8 min                 Second stage engine cutoff 2 (SECO-2)
33.3 min                  Spacecraft separation
66.7 min                 Second stage deorbit burn

IXPE’s launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is now about 40 minutes away. Coverage of launch day activities will continue here on the blog. Also, tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website, starting at 12:30 a.m. EST for a live broadcast. Liftoff, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, is targeted for 1 a.m.

Weather Looking Great for NASA’s IXPE Launch

The weather outlook for today’s early morning launch of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center is terrific. 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.

A collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, IXPE is NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization. Launch, which is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is targeted for 1 a.m. EST from the Florida spaceport’s Launch Complex 39A.

Coverage of launch day activities will continue here on the blog throughout IXPE’s milestones. Also, tune in to NASA Television, the NASA app, or the agency’s website, starting at 12:30 a.m. EST for a live broadcast.

What is NASA’s IXPE Mission All About?

NASA's IXPE spacecraft
NASA’s IXPE spacecraft carries three state-of-the-art space telescopes with special polarization-sensitive detectors. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission sounds cool, and even has a catchy name. But what is IXPE’s goal and how did the project come about? Here is a more in-depth look at IXPE, NASA’s first satellite dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization.

IXPE is going to explore some of the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe – including black holes and pulsars – and the X-rays they emit. It is the first mission that will map the polarization of many of these objects.

IXPE carries three state-of-the-art space telescopes with special polarization-sensitive detectors. Polarization is a property of light that holds clues to the environment from which the light originates. By providing the first-ever dedicated look at polarized X-rays, IXPE will help us discover the secrets of some of the most extreme cosmic objects of the universe: the remnants of supernova explosions, neutron stars and black holes in our galaxy, and super massive black holes at the centers of galaxies.

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.

Stay right here for continuing blog coverage of Thursday’s 1 a.m. EST launch of IXPE from Space Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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.

NASA’s LCRD Launches Aboard Space Test Program 3

Conceptual image of the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) payload transmitting optical signals. LCRD, NASA’s first end-to-end laser relay system, will operate for at least two years and provide data rates 10 to 100 times higher than traditional radio frequency systems.
Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V 551 rocket successfully launched from Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Dec. 7, at 5:19 a.m. EST for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission. Two satellites were on board, including the Space Test Program Satellite-6 (STPSat-6) spacecraft, which carried two NASA payloads that have been successfully deployed:

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), will be NASA’s first end-to-end laser relay system, sending and receiving data over invisible infrared lasers at a rate of approximately 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth. With data rates 10 to 100 times higher than traditional radio frequency systems, laser communications systems will provide future missions with extraordinary data capabilities.

The mission will operate for at least two years. Engineers will beam data between LCRD and optical ground stations located in Table Mountain, California, and Haleakalā, Hawaii, once LCRD is positioned more than 22,000 miles above Earth. Experiments will refine the transmission process, study different operational scenarios, and perfect tracking systems. The information and data are essential to readying a laser communications system for an operational mission because engineers cannot replicate the same conditions with ground tests.

UVSC Pathfinder — short for Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder — begins its mission to peer at the lowest regions of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, where solar energetic particles, the Sun’s most dangerous form of radiation, are thought to originate. A joint NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory experiment, UVSC Pathfinder becomes the latest addition to NASA’s fleet of heliophysics observatories, which study a vast, interconnected system from the Sun to the space surrounding Earth and other planets, and to the farthest limits of the Sun’s constantly flowing stream of solar wind.

For a full recap of this morning’s launch, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-laser-communications-tech-science-experiment-safely-in-space-0/

To stay updated about LCRD and laser communications, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lasercomms.

Stay connected with the LCRD mission on social media:
Twitter: @NASA, @NASAGoddard, @NASALaserComm, @NASA_Technology, @NASASCaN
Facebook: NASANASAGoddardNASA TechnologyNASA Space Communications and Navigation
Instagram: NASANASAGoddard

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.