NASA announced an agreement Thursday with Hawthorne-based SpaceX for the launch of a high-tech scientific research mission aimed at providing answers about the origins of the universe.
The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer, or SPHEREx, mission is being targeted for launch in June 2024. The mission, managed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, will launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California.
NASA put the cost of launching the mission at $98.8 million.
According to NASA, the two-year mission will scan the sky in “near-infrared light, which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions involving the birth of the universe and the subsequent development of galaxies.”
It will also search for potentially life-supporting water and organic molecules in “stellar nurseries” where stars are born from gas and dust, and in disks around stars where new planets could be forming, according to NASA. The mission will gather information on more than 300 million galaxies, and on more than 100 million stars our own Milky Way galaxy.