NASA announced it awarded SpaceX a $255 million contract to launch the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.
The agency’s next flagship astronomy mission, on a Falcon Heavy rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in 2026.
The Roman telescope will launch toward a gravitational balance point called L2 nearly a million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
Roman will orbit the L2 location in a halo orbit, similar to the trajectory flown by the James Webb Space Telescope, which launched last December and entered operational service earlier this month.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, the world’s most powerful launch vehicle currently in service, will give the Roman telescope a ride toward its deep space observation post.
Roman is NASA’s next large space telescope after Webb. While Webb is designed to peer deep into the cosmos with pointed observations.
Roman is a surveyor with a large field of view capable of scanning large swaths of the sky.
The observations from Roman will help scientists study the nature of dark energy and dark matter, the enigmatic forces and materials that make up the majority of the universe.
Roman will also search for and image planets around other stars. The telescope’s primary mirror measures 7.9 feet (2.4 meters) in diameter, the same size as Hubble’s mirror.
Roman’s wide-field imaging capability will give it a field of view 100 times that of Hubble, with the same imaging resolution, allowing it to capture more of the sky with less observing time.