SpaceX awarded launch services contract for Roman Space Telescope

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NASA has awarded a launch services contract to SpaceX for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope mission. 

The contract is an indefinite-delivery and indefinite-quantity contract.

The agency said the total cost to launch the telescope is around $255 million. 

The telescope, formerly known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope and renamed for NASA's first chief astronomer Nancy Grace Roman, will study dark energy, measure the history of cosmic acceleration, search for worlds beyond our solar system and demonstrate technology for direct imaging and characterization of exoplanets. 

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Nancy Grace Roman (1925-2018), NASA’s first chief astronomer, is known as the ‘Mother of Hubble.’ In this image from the early 1970s, Dr. Roman is shown at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. (NASA)

According to NASA, Roman's gigantic field of view will enable the mission to create infrared images that are around 200 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope can provide, while revealing the same level of detail. 

In enormous cosmic panoramas, each image from the telescope will capture a patch of the sky bigger than the apparent size of a full moon.

Over the first five years of observations, the Roman Space Telescope will image over 50 times as much sky as the Hubble Space Telescope has covered in 30 years.​

A high-resolution illustration of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope against a starry background. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center says that the combination of Roman's fine resolution and enormous images has never been possible on a space-based telescope before, and it is expected to collect far more data than any other NASA astrophysics mission before it. 

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Like the James Webb Space Telescope, the Roman Space Telescope benefits from technological advances. However, each of the NASA telescopes is important to the future of space exploration. 

"In the coming years, the Roman Space Telescope's enormous infrared surveys will reveal interesting targets for follow up by other missions. Hubble can view the targets in additional wavelengths of light and will provide the only high-resolution view of the ultraviolet universe. The James Webb Space Telescope can make detailed observations that go even further into the infrared with its high-resolution, zoomed in view," Goddard said. "Combining the Roman Space Telescope's findings with Hubble’s and Webb’s could revolutionize our understanding in a multitude of cosmic pursuits."

The image captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope of the star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula is seen on a screen as members of the media and guests watch the broadcast releasing the first full-color images from NASA’s James (NASA/Taylor Mickal)

The Roman team is currently building and testing the observatory.

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The Roman Space Telescope is the top-priority large space mission recommended by the 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey.

Launch of the next-generation observatory is slated for October 2026 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

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