Story at a glance

  • NASA on Thursday revealed it has awarded a contract to SpaceX for the launch of SPHEREx.
  • The spacecraft is due to launch via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in June 2024 from Space Launch Complex-4East at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
  • The mission’s goal is to learn more about the origins of the universe and search for water and organic molecules in regions where stars are born.

NASA is teaming up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX on a two-year astrophysics mission to help better understand the birth of the universe and the development of galaxies. 

NASA on Thursday revealed it has awarded a contract to SpaceX for the launch of SPHEREx, which stands for Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer. 


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The spacecraft is due to launch via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in June 2024 from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The total cost to launch SPHEREx is about $98.8 million. 

NASA says the spacecraft will survey the sky in near-infrared light, which is not visible to the human eye, as a tool to help answer questions about the origins of the universe and how galaxies form. 

“It also will search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life as we know it – in regions where stars are born from gas and dust, known as stellar nurseries, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming,” NASA said in a news release. 

The mission will gather data from more than 300 million galaxies and more than 100 million stars in the Milky Way galaxy.  

The contract is the latest NASA has awarded SpaceX over the past several years. SpaceX last year launched astronauts to space for the first time. It was the first privately designed and built spacecraft to launch astronauts to space and the first time NASA had launched its own astronauts since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. 


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Published on Feb 05, 2021