Musk's SpaceX and NASA team up again for $69m space telescope launch contract: Here's what the mission seeks to achieve - Hindustan Times
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Musk's SpaceX and NASA team up again for $69m space telescope launch contract: Here's what the mission seeks to achieve

Jul 04, 2024 05:15 PM IST

After awarding SpaceX the contract to destroy the ISS, NASA has again picked Elon Musk's company for an August 2027 astronomy mission.

NASA has again picked Elon Musk’s SpaceX for another project.

TOPSHOT - A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) weather satellite Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite U (GOES-U) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, June 25, 2024. (AFP)
TOPSHOT - A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) weather satellite Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite U (GOES-U) lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, June 25, 2024. (AFP)

On Tuesday, June 2, the US space agency announced that it had granted SpaceX a contract, valued at about $69 million, to launch the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) spacecraft mission into low Earth orbit.

With SpaceX’s Falcon 9 as NASA’s rocket ride for COSI, the joint partnership will launch a space telescope to study the universe in high-energy gamma-ray light. The astronomy mission lift-off is scheduled for August 2027 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US.

What does NASA's space telescope launch with SpaceX's Falcon 9 aim to achieve?

The American government agency previously selected COSI in 2021 for its Small Explorer (SMEX) program, which was estimated at $145 million at the time, excluding the launch costs. According to Space News, the spacecraft will detect soft gamma rays and their sources in the galaxy and beyond.

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NASA said on Tuesday that its wide-field gamma-ray telescope will explore energetic phenomena in the Milky Way and beyond, “including the creation and destruction of matter and antimatter and the final stage of the lives of stars.”

COSI “will probe the origins of the Milky Way’s galactic positrons, uncover the sites of nucleosynthesis in our galaxy, perform studies of gamma-ray polarization and find counterparts of multi-messenger sources,” the agency added in a statement.

This mission was initially projected to take off in 2025. However, the launch was pushed to 2027 due to constrained budget issues. NASA claimed to have extended Phase B design work to accommodate budget pressures.

The global space media outlet also reported that NASA refused to divulge the number of companies bidding on the launch as they considered the information “source selective sensitive.”

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has gained the buzzworthy title as the busiest rocket active in the arena. It has already lifted off 67 times this year.

The NASA x SpaceX mission is a collaborative effort between the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, the University of California, San Diego, the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Northrop Grumman.

In addition to the COSI program, NASA previously shortlisted Musk's spacecraft manufacturer to intentionally destroy the International Space Station (ISS) after its estimated retirement in 2030. Through the $843 million contract, SpaceX's so-called “Deorbit Vehicle" (USDV) will guide the laboratory back into Earth's atmosphere, thereby decommissioning it. 

 

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