Technology  December 10, 2021

NASA launches Ball spacecraft into orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — A spacecraft built by Ball Aerospace for NASA launched Thursday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer spacecraft once in orbit will observe polarized X-rays from extreme objects, such as neutron stars, stellar and super massive black holes.

“IXPE is going to provide unprecedented insight into how the universe works,” Makenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager of Ball Aerospace, said in a written statement. “By measuring X-ray polarization with spatial, spectral and temporal resolution, we will gain a far better understanding of the geometry of extreme magnetic fields over a wide range of spatial scales, from the polar jets of Active Galactic Nuclei, to the near-surface of extremely magnetic neutron stars called magnetars.”

The mission addresses NASA’s science goal “to probe the origin and destiny of our universe, including the nature of black holes, dark energy, dark matter, and gravity.” It is led by principal investigator Dr. Martin C. Weisskopf at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center with support from Ball Aerospace, the Italian Space Agency, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at University of Colorado Boulder and other partners, according to information from Ball.

In addition to the mechanical and structural elements of the payload and observatory assembly, Ball Aerospace provided the IXPE spacecraft and conducted integration and testing. The spacecraft is based on the smallest Ball Configurable Platform model.  

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