Ball Aerospace has received a contract from Nasa to build the spacecraft for a mission aimed at exploring the origins of the universe.

The two-year Spectro Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) medium-class explorer mission is expected to launch in 2023.

Expected to cost $242m, excluding launch costs, the new space mission is designed to help astronomers gain an understanding of the evolution of the universe and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.

According to the contract, Ball will also deliver the system integration and test, support for integration of the spacecraft onto a launch vehicle, and commissioning of the spacecraft after launch.

“Ball Aerospace is committed to supporting the goals of Nasa and the science community to explore and understand our universe.”

Ball Aerospace Civil Space vice-president and general manager Dr Makenzie Lystrup said: “Ball Aerospace is committed to supporting the goals of Nasa and the science community to explore and understand our universe.

“Our extensive heritage across a wide breadth of Nasa science and exploration mission classes informs our development of technology that will enable the science of tomorrow – providing science at any scale.”

SPHEREx will survey the sky in optical and near-infrared light to analyse more than 300 million galaxies and over 100 million stars in our Milky Way.

Astronomers will study the nature of physics responsible for cosmic inflation in the early universe.

The scope of the mission will also include determining the properties of interstellar ices and investigating the cosmic history of galaxy formation.

Interstellar ices are a major source of water and biogenic material during the early phases of star and planet formation.

Ball will build the SPHEREx bus based on the Ball Configurable Platform (BCP) spacecraft, which is designed for flexible, cost-effective applications.

Meanwhile, Nasa has selected the Korea Astronomy & Space Science Institute to provide test equipment and science analysis for the mission.