SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch Roman space telescope

NASA’s next dark matter-hunting telescope has a ride on a SpaceX rocket.

The Roman space telescope will be launched at the earliest in 2026 aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket from the Californian company NASA announcement (opens in a new tab) Tuesday (July 19).

NASA will pay SpaceX $255 million for launch service “and other mission-related costs,” agency officials said. The mission is set to launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Related: The best Hubble Space Telescope images ever!

While Falcon Heavy is a largely new rocket — it’s only been launched three times, most famously with a dummy aboard Tesla in 2018 — it seems the agency wanted the extra fuel this rocket can carry. , compared to SpaceX’s lighter Falcon 9. .

Indeed, Roman will fly to a distant orbit known as Lagrange 2, or L2, which is about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet. This orbit, which the James Webb Space Telescope also shares, is relatively far from Earth and as such requires additional fuel to fly directly there.

Artist’s rendering of the Roman space telescope at work. (Image credit: NASA)

Roman, formerly called the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), has the same mirror size as the long-running Hubble Space Telescope. Unlike Hubble, however, Roman is optimized to look at 100 times larger fields of view. This makes the new observatory ideal for large-scale studies of the universe.

Working in infrared light, Roman must undertake research into dark energy and dark matter which are believed to form a large part of the structure of the universe.

The telescope will also examine exoplanets using a technique called microlensexamining the subtle “distortions” in spacetime induced by the planets surrounding their parent stars.

NASA said the Wide-Field Telescope will be a valuable exoplanet surveyor to search for worlds Webb can see in high definition, which are farther from Earth than the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) could pick up. .

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Where Facebook (opens in a new tab).

Comments are closed.