NASA extends the Chandra X-ray astronomy mission

NASA extends the Chandra X-ray astronomy mission
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, NRAO/AUI/NSF and G. Dubner (University of Buenos Aires)

NASA has extended the Chandra X-ray astronomy mission by awarding the contract extension to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Chandra observatory mission has been NASA’s flagship X-ray astronomy mission since its launch in 1999. The Chandra observatory was launched on the Space Shuttle Columbia and detects emissions of X-rays in the Universe’s hottest regions. The Chandra X-ray telescope is one of NASA’s ‘Great Observatories’, a special class of observatories which contribute to astronomy by viewing the universe in different types of lighting.

The achievements of the Chandra astronomy mission

The Chandra X-ray telescope has made progress in astronomy through its achievements such as seeing the hot gas in clusters in more detail than any other telescope, studying the debris fields known as supernova remnants to inform astronomers on the life cycles of stars, and studying the aftermath of destruction caused by black holes.

X-ray technology contributed to the development of technologies within various scientific fields.

For example, X-ray technology has led to advances and innovations in the following fields:

  • Airport security;
  • Neuron scattering;
  • Environmental monitoring;
  • X-ray microscopy;
  • Monitoring radioactive waste;
  • Recording fusion reaction energy; and
  • Studying molecular structures in biomedical and pharmaceutical research

What does the contract extension cover?

The potential value of the contract extension is $563.5 m (~€486.6m) and it extends the agreement between NASA and SAO until September 30, 2024. Following this there are two three-year options that would extend the contract until September 30, 2030.

The contract is for the continued operation of the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Chandra X-ray Center is responsible for conducting key parts of the X-ray astronomy mission such as observation, operations, and research.

The core functions of the Chandra X-ray Center include:

  • System engineering
  • Ground system development and maintenance
  • Mission operations
  • Science and operations planning
  • Science research and dissemination; and
  • Outreach support.
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