NASA chose the Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Roman telescope

SpaceX has received a USD 255 million contract from NASA to launch the Roman Space Telescope. A Falcon Heavy rocket will be used for the mission.

Roman Space Telescope

The Roman Space Telescope is designed to observe large-scale structures of the universe and study the influence of dark matter on galaxies. Another mission objective is to search for and obtain direct images of exoplanets.

Roman telescope in the artist’s image. Source: NASA

Like the famous Hubble, Roman will receive a 2.4-meter mirror. At the same time, there are a number of significant differences between the two space observatories. First, Roman will conduct observations in the visible and near-infrared range. Secondly, the new telescope will be equipped with a 288-megapixel camera that allows it to shoot sections of the sky with an area of 0.28 square degrees. This is a hundred times the field of view of the Hubble telescope.

Another important difference is that a coronagraph will also be installed on Roman, a device capable of “cutting off” the light of a star, which allows it to directly study the moons orbiting around it. It will use a new technology to block light and compensate for distortion in the wavefront. It will include a set of several light-tight disks and two mirrors, the surface of which can change its shape on command from the Earth. Thus, the Roman coronagraph will be able to create the clearest images of protoplanetary and circumstellar disks, as well as find several thousand new exoplanets and get direct images of the largest of them.

Launch date of the Roman telescope

As is often the case with ambitious NASA projects, the launch date of the Roman telescope has been shifted several times. At the moment, it is scheduled for the end of 2026 – the first half of 2027. Initially, it was assumed that a Delta IV Heavy rocket would be used to launch the telescope. But its operation will be discontinued in 2024 even before the Roman is ready for flight. Therefore, NASA decided to use the Falcon Heavy rocket for this mission.

Launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket. Source: SpaceX

Recall that NASA recently postponed the launch of the VIPER lunar rover to 2024.

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