Science

NASA selects SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket to launch Rome Space Telescope

NASA’s upcoming dark matter telescope will be launched on a SpaceX rocket.

The Rome Space Telescope will not launch until 2026 aboard a California-based Falcon Heavy rocket, NASA said. (will open in a new tab) Tuesday (July 19).

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

On the subject: The best images of the Hubble Space Telescope of all time!

While the Falcon Heavy is pretty much a new rocket – it’s only been launched three times, most famously with a Tesla dummy on board in 2018 – it looks like the agency wanted some extra fuel that this rocket can carry, and no lighter workhorse SpaceX Falcon 9. .

That’s because Roman will be flying into a deep orbit known as Lagrange 2 or L2, which is about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet. This orbit, which is also shared by the James Webb Space Telescope, is relatively far from Earth and therefore requires additional fuel to fly there directly.

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

The novel, formerly the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), boasts the same mirror size as the old Hubble Space Telescope. However, unlike Hubble, Roman is optimized to view fields of view 100 times larger. This makes the new observatory ideal for large-scale exploration of the universe.

Working in infrared light, Roman plans to conduct research into dark energy and dark matter, which are thought to make up much of the structure of the universe.

The telescope will also explore exoplanets using a technique called microlensing, examining subtle “warps” in space-time caused by planets orbiting their parent stars.

NASA said the wide-angle telescope would be a valuable exoplanet explorer to explore worlds that Webb can see at higher resolution and are farther from Earth than what the Transiting Exoplanet Exploration Satellite (TESS) can detect.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).

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