Nasa has awarded a $109.4m contract to US rocket and spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX to provide launch services for its Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission.

The mission is designed to better understand the boundary of the heliosphere, a magnetic barrier surrounding the solar system where solar wind collides with winds from other stars.

The collision restricts a certain amount of harmful cosmic radiation from entering the heliosphere.

As part of this mission, IMAP will gather and map neutral particles that make it through, as well as probe the basic processes of how particles are accelerated in space, from its vantage point orbiting the Sun at the Lagrange 1 point directly between the Sun and Earth.

Under this contract, SpaceX will launch four secondary payloads, including Nasa’s Lunar Trailblazer mission, two additional Nasa heliophysics missions of opportunity that are yet to be named, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Follow On-Lagrange 1 (SWFO-L1) mission.

The IMAP mission is slated for launch in October 2024, on a Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The mission is led by Princeton University in partnership with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

Nasa’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida will manage the SpaceX launch service while Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, is responsible for the mission’s overall management, system engineering, integration, and testing and mission operations.

Earlier this month, SpaceX successfully launched its 12th Starlink satellite internet mission onboard the Falcon 9 rocket from launch complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.