Nasa has selected US-based SpaceX to provide launch services for its Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission.

The mission allows astronomers to explore the hidden details of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects in the universe for the first time.

The total cost to Nasa for launching the IXPE mission is around $50.3m, which includes the launch service and other mission-related costs.

IXPE measures polarised X-rays from exotic astronomical objects such as black holes and neutron stars, allowing scientists to better understand these types of cosmic phenomena and extreme environments where gravitational, electric and magnetic fields are at their limits.

The mission is expected to be launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, US, in April 2021.

It will fly three space telescopes with detectors that have the ability to measure the polarisation of cosmic X-rays, which enable scientists to answer fundamental questions about these exotic and turbulent environments.

The SpaceX launch service will be managed by the agency’s Launch Services Programme at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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The project office of the astrophysics mission is located at Nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.

It is managed by the Explorers Programme Office at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Earlier this month, Nasa successfully completed the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test of the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle’s launch abort system.

The test is considered to be another milestone in the company’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon, leading to manned missions to Mars.