IXPE In the News:

August 25, 2023: IXPE Discovery Paper, SGR 1806-20

The thirty-second discovery paper using IXPE data has been published by the Astrophysical Journal, authored by Roberto Turolla and the IXPE team, it is titled IXPE and XMM-Newton Observations of the Soft Gamma Repeater SGR 1806-20.

June 21, 2023: IXPE Discovery Paper, SGR A* Complex AND a NASA News Release

The twenty-third discovery paper using IXPE data has been published by Nature, authored by Frédéric Marin and the IXPE team. For more information see, X-ray Polarization Evidence for a 200-year-old flare of Sgr A*. Also on June 21, NASA posted Milky Way’s Central Black Hole Woke Up 200 Years Ago, NASA’s IXPE Finds. This posting, which coincided with the Nature article publication, includes combined IXPE and Chandra images and a sonification produced by the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachussetts.

June 5, 2023: IXPE Mission Extended by 20 Months

NASA Program Scientist Hashima Hasan, has announced that the NASA Astrophysics Director, Mark Clampin, has signed the IXPE extension memo. The IXPE mission will be extended by 20 months with a General Observer (GO) program from 2024 February through 2025 September. IXPE will be evaluated at the next NASA Senior Review of Operating Missions, for extension beyond that date. NASA has released the Announcement of Opportunity for the IXPE GO program (6/8/2023). For more information see, D.17 IXPE General Observer - Cycle 1.

IXPE Featured at Summer American Astronomical Society Meeting, June 15, 2022:
Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer: Initial Results

IXPE Shares First Science Image February 14, 2022:
Press Release

December 15, 2021: IXPE's boom has deployed

IXPE launched from KSC at 1:00 a.m. EST, December 9, 2021: Missed the launch? View it here.

Pre-Launch Briefings and News Conferences at NASA TV

  • Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 1:00 pm EST: With participants Elisabeth Cavazzuti, ASI IXPE program manager, Italian Space Agency; Luca Baldini, Italian co-principal investigator, National Institute for Nuclear Physics; Brian Ramsey, deputy principal investigator, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; MacKenzie Perrie, IXPE program manager, Ball Aerospace. Members of the public may ask questions on social media with #AskNASA.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 5:30 pm EST: With participants Sandra Connelly, deputy associate administrator for science, NASA HQ; Martin Weisskopf, IXPE principal investigator, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Mackenzie Lystrup, vice president and general manager, civil space, Ball Aerospace; Tim Dunn, launch director, civil satellite missions, SpaceX; Mike McAleenan, 45th Weather Squadron, Space Launch Delta 45. Members of the public may ask questions on social media with #AskNASA.
  • Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 12:30 am EST: NASA TV live launch coverage begins. Follow countdown coverage on the IXPE launch blog.

Mission Scenario Test Number 3 Completed

August 26, 2021: A successful mission scenario test was completed that included the Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP)/University of Colorado, Boulder, the IXPE observatory itself, the Science Operations Center (SOC) at Marshall Space Flight Center, and the Italian instrument team. The test verified operational procedures and successfully performed instument commissioning steps. In addition, the MOC simulated the download of contact telemetry files. All the test objectives were met ahead of schedule and no anomalies were reported.

IXPE Completes Thermal Vacuum Testing

August 4, 2021: IXPE successfully completed a 21-day, 24/7 thermal-vacuum test, which included final hot-cold limited performance tests. Marshall Space Flight Center, Italian partners, and Ball Aerospace scientists and engineers were on hand to review data and address anomalies during the test. The IXPE boom was successfully stowed on August 9 and the Observatory moved back to the clean room on August 11.

IXPE Passed the Key Decision Point (KDP-D) Review

November 2, 2020: The IXPE mission has successfully passed the KDP-D review. NASA manages programs and projects by categorizing the steps necessary to complete the project. These steps or phaases are called Key Decision Points (KDP). IXPE is now in the Project Phase D, which is composed of: system assembly, integration and test, launch.

Ball Aerospace Integrates IXPE's Mirror Module Assemblies (MMAs)

October, 2020: At Ball Aerospace, all three of IXPE’s flight Mirror Module Assemblies (MMAs) were integrated into the Mirror Module Support Structure (MMSS). The MMSS will be attached to an extensible optical bench (not shown in the figure below), to establish the Observatory’s 4-meter focal length when deployed in orbit. The red-capped tube mounted at the top center of the MMSS is the forward star tracker. The 3-legged support stand and the circular handling cages at the top of each MMA are (non-flight) ground support equipment (GSE). (Image courtesy of Ball Aerospace. The full resolution image is 1.5 MB.)
Image of IXPE Mirror Assemblies (MMAs) integrated into the Mirror Module Support Structure (MMSS)

Mission Systems Integration Review (M-SIR)

September 22-23, 2020: IXPE successfully passed the M-SIR Review, a gate review that is a precursor to the IXPE Key Decision Point - D (KDP-D), which is scheduled for November 2, 2020.

IXPE’s Mirror Module Assembly (MMA) Delivered to Ball Aerospace

September 3, 2020: The IXPE MMA team successfully completed a pre-ship review for all three flight MMAs. Each MMA has a 4-m focal length, focusing x rays onto a corresponding polarization-sensitive detector (provided by the Italian space agency). The telescope system (mirrors and detectors) is optimized for polarimetry at 2-8 keV. The mirror assemblies left MSFC in Huntsville, Alabama the afternoon of Wednesday Sept 9th, arriving at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado on Thursday September 10th, where they will be integrated into the spacecraft. Normally the MSFC MMA team would help unpack and inspect the mirror modules post shipment. However, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the MMA team provided Ball with written procedures and a video showing post-shipment inspection. With the completion of environmental testing and x-ray calibration of the flight MMAs at MSFC and shipment to Ball, the IXPE team is progressing toward meeting critical mission milestones leading to a launch in 2021 autumn.
Image: IXPE Mirror Module Assembly unpacked and ready for spacecraft integration
One of the MMAs after delivery to Ball Aerospace, showing its top thermal shield (provided by Nagoya University, Japan), underneath the three “arms” of the handling fixture. The thermal shield and another at the opposite end of the MMA, in combination with heaters and insulation (not shown), will provide a stable thermal environment for the x-ray optics in orbit.

IXPE Launch to be Delayed

August 11, 2020 (updated from July 7, 2020): There have been multiple effects of the Covid-19 pandemic including delays and cancellations of events, and IXPE is not immune. To mitigate the risk of spreading the virus at Marshall Space Flight Center where fabrication and testing of IXPE mirrors have been taking place, work stopped for approximately three months (March through June). This work delay postpones the launch of IXPE from May 2021 until Fall 2021.
Operating on a slightly different Covid-19 avoidance schedule, the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - ASI) has been able to continue calibrating the IXPE detectors, mostly remotely, with extremely limited on-site work. As a result, colleagues at ASI have shipped the entire flight instrument to the United States for integration into the IXPE payload at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado. For more details, see the two news stories that appeared on non-NASA sites: 2 July 2020 and 6 August 2020.

IXPE Detector Unit Two

February 27, 2020: Detector unit two for the Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) was transferred by the Italian Space Agency (Agenzia Spaziale Italiana - ASI) to the IXPE project at Marshall Space Flight Center. ASI's Italian Instrument Team temporarily operating at Marshall, completed modifications to Detector Unit 2 (DU2), a highly specialized unit that determines the polarization of incident X-rays. The DU2 then successfully withstood a vibration test. The Italian DU2 is flight hardware contributed for use by the Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) Project. With the completion of this activity, and successful reduced-functional tests at MSFC, DU2 property custody was transferred from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to IXPE (NASA). The DU2 will now be calibrated with the X-ray mirror assembly.

IXPE Launch Vehicle Selected

On July 8, 2019, NASA announced that SpaceX of Hawthorne, California will provide launch services for IXPE. The launch is targeted for April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For the full press release, click HERE .

IXPE Passed!

The week of June 24 (2019), the IXPE mission successfully passed the Mission Critical Design Review (M-CDR).

X-ray Optics in the News

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, appearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on April 26, 2017, mentioned grazing incidence X-ray mirrors being developed at Marshall Space Flight Center. Dr. Zurbuchen's remarks may be found HERE, at approximately 1 hour 21 minutes.

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