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.”

Watch IXPE Prelaunch Activities, Launch on NASA TV

NASA's IXPE mission
IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A no earlier than 1 a.m. EST on Dec. 9, 2021. Credit: NASA

NASA will provide coverage of the prelaunch and launch activities for the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, scheduled to lift off no earlier than 1 a.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 9, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

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.

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

Click here to view the complete mission coverage.

Launch Readiness Review Complete Ahead of NASA’s DART Mission

A team of launch managers for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission have authorized approval to proceed to launch countdown at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California ahead of a scheduled launch on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 10:21 p.m. PST (Wednesday, Nov. 24 at 1:21 a.m. EST) from the SpaceX Space Launch Complex 4.

During the Launch Readiness Review on Nov. 22, launch managers from NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), SpaceX, and DART mission team received an update on the mission status and any close-out actions from the previously held Flight Readiness Review. Signing the Certificate of Flight Readiness at the conclusion of the LRR were NASA’s Office of Safety and Mission Assurance; LSP’s chief engineer,  launch director, and program manager; the U.S. Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 30 commander; the DART project manager; Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory director; and the SpaceX Launch Director.

DART is the first mission to test technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid. DART’s target asteroid in not a threat to Earth.

Teams also recently completed integration of the Falcon 9 rocket and its payload. After moving the DART spacecraft, encapsulated in its payload fairings, from the payload processing facility to the Falcon 9 Hangar, SpaceX technicians horizontally integrated the encapsulated spacecraft to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket over a two-day period, Nov. 20 to 21.

“The payload mate onto the launch vehicle is an important milestone for DART because it is the final verification to ensure the spacecraft is communicating with its ground team,” said Notlim Burgos, LSP payload mechanical engineer. “This milestone also is significant for the LSP mechanical team because it integrates the last components of the launch vehicle, completing the build of the Falcon 9 in support of NASA’s first planetary defense mission.”

NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is managing the launch. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab manages the DART mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office as a project of the agency’s Planetary Missions Program Office. The agency provides support for the mission from several centers, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

 

NASA’s IXPE Spacecraft Arrives in Florida Ahead of Kennedy Launch

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft arrives at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Nov. 5, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

The Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft, which 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 – arrived at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Nov. 5, 2021.

NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization, IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 9, 2021. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

IXPE is scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 9, 2021. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

Final prelaunch testing of IXPE began on Monday, Nov. 8. The spacecraft is expected to be mated to the launch vehicle during the last week of November.

IXPE will fly three space telescopes with sensitive detectors capable of measuring the polarization of cosmic X-rays, allowing scientists to answer fundamental questions about these extremely complex environments where gravitational, electric, and magnetic fields are at their limits.

NASA selected IXPE as an Explorers Program 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.

Click here for more information on the IXPE mission.

Media Invited to Launch of NASA’s IXPE Mission

Media is invited to view the launch of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), the first satellite mission dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources.

IXPE is scheduled to launch
Dec. 9, 2021, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. It is NASA’s first mission dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization.

Click here for credentialing information and to read the full media advisory.

NASA’s IXPE Spacecraft to Launch Dec. 9

Artist rendition of NASA's IXPE
An artist’s rendition of NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), which is targeted to launch from Kennedy Space Center on Dec. 9, 2021.

NASA’s newest X-ray astronomy mission, Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), is scheduled to launch Dec. 9, 2021. IXPE will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicle from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy.

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 to what those environments are like and helps scientists better understand these mysterious phenomena.

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

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.

NOAA’s GOES-T Launch Update

Artist's rendering of GOES-R, NASA
Credit: NASA/Artist’s rendering of GOES-R

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are now targeting Feb. 16, 2022, for the launch of the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite T (GOES-T) mission. The launch was previously planned for Jan. 8, 2022. NASA, NOAA, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) coordinated the new target date to optimize launch schedules for missions flying from Space Launch Complex-41.

GOES-T will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket. The two-hour launch window will open at 4:40 p.m. EST. This launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy Space Center.

GOES-T is the third satellite in the GOES-R Series, which will extend NOAA’s operational geostationary satellite observations through 2036. The GOES satellite network helps meteorologists observe and predict local weather events, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, fog, hurricanes, flash floods and other severe weather.

NOAA manages the GOES-R Series Program through an integrated NOAA-NASA office, administering the ground system contract, operating the satellites, and distributing their data to users worldwide. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center oversees the acquisition of the GOES-R spacecraft and instruments. Lockheed Martin designs, creates, and tests the GOES-R Series satellites. L3Harris Technologies provides the main instrument payload, the Advanced Baseline Imager, along with the ground system, which includes the antenna system for data reception.

Looking forward, NOAA is working with NASA on the next-generation geostationary satellite mission called Geostationary Extended Observations (GeoXO), which will bring new capabilities in support of U.S. weather, ocean, and climate operations in the 2030s.  NASA will manage the development of the GeoXO satellites and launch them for NOAA.

Landsat 9 Continues a Legacy of 50 Years

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Landsat 9 satellite onboard is seen, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The Landsat 9 satellite, a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey mission that continues the legacy of monitoring Earth’s land and coastal regions, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force on Monday, Sept. 27, at 11:12 a.m. PDT (2:12 p.m. EDT). Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

After a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully carried the Landsat 9 spacecraft into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Sept. 27, the satellite now joins Landsat 8 in orbit and replaces Landsat 7, launched in 1999.

Landsat 9 and Landsat 8 will collect images from across the planet every eight days. This calibrated data will continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring the health of Earth and helping people manage essential resources, including crops, irrigation water, and forests.

“Landsat provides one basic set of observations that feeds an entire range of Earth science applications and research,” said NASA Landsat 9 Project Scientist Jeff Masek.

Images from Landsat 9 will be added to nearly 50 years of free and publicly available data from the mission – the longest data record of Earth’s landscapes taken from space. Landsat’s medium-resolution imaging capability allows researchers to harmonize the images to detect the footprint of human activities and their impact on our home planet over the decades.

NASA Landsat 9 Project Scientist Jeff Masek poses for a photograph by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the Landsat 9 satellite at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

“We have over 2,000 peer-reviewed publications every year in the scientific literature that depend on the Landsat archive,” Masek said. “Landsat is our best source for understanding rates of tropical deforestation, as well as other forest dynamics like disturbances from hurricanes, wildfires, insect outbreaks, as well as the recovery of those disturbances over time.”

As Landsat 9 orbits Earth, it captures scenes across a swath 185 kilometers (115) miles wide. Each pixel in these images is 30 meters across, or about the size of a baseball infield, which allows resource managers to resolve most crop fields in the United States. Its instruments collect images of Earth’s landscapes in visible, near and shortwave (reflected) infrared, and thermal infrared wavelengths. Like its predecessors, Landsat 9 is a joint effort of NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

“The USGS collection data allow the science, government, civil, and international user communities to map wildfires, primary and secondary contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, ice cover persistence, melt, water clarity, water quality, floating algae biomass, landcover that’s changed, and also urban growth and the heat island effects on local and regional temperature,” said USGS Project Scientist Chris Crawford. “The USGS 5-year archive provides a highly reliable, highly stable, and high-quality terrestrial and aquatic imaging record that can enable the quantification of space and time effects of climate variability and change on both human and natural systems.”

The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of a phytoplankton bloom in the Sea of Marmara on May 17, 2015.
The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image of a phytoplankton bloom in the Sea of Marmara on May 17, 2015. Photo credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Since the launch of the first Landsat satellite in 1972, the mission’s archive has grown to contain more than 8 million images. Landsat 9 data will add to this archive to better our understanding of Earth in innumerable ways – from tracking water use in crop fields in the western United States, to monitoring deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, to measuring the speed of Antarctic glaciers. Decision makers from across the globe use the freely available Landsat data to better understand environmental change, forecast global crop production, respond to natural disasters, and more. The usefulness of the data stems from the careful design and engineering of the satellite and the mission.

“Landsat allows us to track in near real time, and in a consistent way, changes to our planet and specifically to our agricultural lands,” said Inbal Becker-Reshef, program director of NASA Harvest, the agency’s food security and agriculture program. “One of the biggest stories of landcover change Landsat has been instrumental to reveal and to track has been the rapid deforestation in the Amazon in South America, in large part driven by agricultural expansion for pastures and croplands. Without Landsat’s historical data archive, we wouldn’t be able to track such massive land changes, which have critical implications for Earth’s ecosystems, biodiversity, and for climate.”

Landsat 9 is designed to last at least five years on orbit but has enough fuel to operate for at least 15 years, including de-orbit, though it could last for 20 or more years. Data from the satellite will become available to the public after completion of the satellite’s 100-day checkout period in January. The next Landsat mission is already in the works, with a series of planned enhancements, including higher spatial resolution, more spectral bands, and more frequent coverage, which are the highest priorities from the Landsat user communities.

To learn more about Landsat 9, visit https://www.nasa.gov/specials/landsat; https://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov; and https://www.usgs.gov/landsat.

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

Twitter: @NASA, @NASAEarth, @NASA_Landsat, @NASASocial, @NASA_LSP, @NASA360
Facebook: NASA, NASA Earth, NASA LSP
Instagram: NASA, NASAEarth

Landsat 9 Satellite Separates From Second Stage, Traveling on Its Own

A graphic of Landsat 9 shows successful separation from the United Launch Alliance Centaur upper stage just over an hour and 20 minutes after liftoff.
An animated graphic shows successful separation of the Landsat 9 observatory from the United Launch Alliance Centaur second stage just over an hour and 20 minutes after liftoff. Photo credit: NASA TV

The Landsat 9 satellite has separated from the Centaur second stage.

Once online, Landsat 9 will take its place as the most advanced satellite in the Landsat series and extend the data record of Earth’s land surface that began with the first Landsat satellite in 1972. Landsat’s high-quality scientific data makes multi-decadal time series studies possible, and its data are regularly used for land management efforts around the world.