The next NASA telescope that will look for dark matter is launched by a SpaceX rocket. According to a NASA announcement made last Tuesday (July 19), the Roman Space Telescope will launch no early than 2026 on a Falcon Heavy rocket from the California-based business.
According to agency officials, NASA would pay SpaceX $255 million for the launch service "and other mission-related costs." The mission is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Florida's Launch Complex 39A.
SpaceX is a private spaceflight business that launches astronauts from NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) as well as satellites and people into orbit. Elon Musk, the company's founder, is also developing and testing a Starship system for future crewed Mars expeditions and lunar landings.
Musk, a businessman and entrepreneur of South African descent, founded SpaceX. At the age of 30, Musk amassed his first fortune from the sales of his two profitable businesses, Zip2 and PayPal, which eBay acquired for $1.5 billion in 2002 and $307 million, respectively, according to The New York Times. Musk concluded that a privately funded space enterprise would be his next significant endeavor.
On May 30, 2020, the company launched its first two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Since then, it has launched numerous additional personnel for NASA and other organizations.
Although the Falcon Heavy rocket is still relatively new-it has only been launched three times, most notably in 2018 with a mannequin riding a Tesla on board-it appears the government preferred the more fuel this rocket can carry to SpaceX's lighter-lift Falcon 9 workhorse.
Roman will be traveling to the Lagrange 2 orbit, also known as L2, located approximately 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet. It takes more fuel to travel directly to this orbit, which the James Webb Space Telescope shares because it is relatively far from Earth.
The long-running Hubble Space Telescope and Roman, formerly known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), share the same mirror size. However, Roman is designed to examine fields of view 100 times greater than Hubble. The new observatory is therefore perfect for extensive studies of the cosmos.
Roman will research dark energy and dark matter, which are thought to make up a large portion of the universe's structure while working in infrared light.
Using a method known as microlensing, the telescope will also look at exoplanets, looking for minute "warps" in space-time brought on by planets orbiting their parent stars.
Wide-field telescopes will be useful for locating exoplanets that Webb can see in higher clarity and that is farther from Earth than what the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) could detect, according to NASA.