SpaceX will launch NASA’s SPHEREx astrophysics survey mission

NASA’s Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is targeted to launch in 2024. SPHEREx will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems. Caltech

Aiming for a 2024 launch, NASA’s Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is an astrophysics survey that will be performed from an orbital observatory. It aims to take a survey of the sky in the near-infrared wavelength, in order to uncover clues about the beginning of the universe and how galaxies developed over time.

Now, NASA has announced that it selected SpaceX to launch the SPHEREx mission, as part of a total cost of $99.8 million for the launch and other related costs. The plan for the launch is to use a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX’s reusable workhorse rocket which has been used to launch everything from resupply missions to the International Space Station to the first crewed test flight and subsequent first operational flight of the Crew Dragon capsule for carrying astronauts.

The plan is to launch SPHEREx from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in June 2024.

NASA selected the SPHEREx mission for funding and launch in February 2019, with NASA officials describing it at the time as providing ” a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers.”

By surveying the sky in the near-infrared, SPHEREx will collect data on over 300 million galaxies as well as the more than 100 million stars in our galaxy. By mapping the entire sky several times over, it will collect data using a variety of filters to pick up different wavelengths. The result should help astronomers understand deep questions about how the universe formed.

NASA says the mission will also be searching for water and organic molecules in star-forming regions, plus searching out disks of matter which could form into planets.

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