A next-generation X-ray space telescope and an experimental lunar lander are set to launch from Japan on Sunday. The H-2A rocket is scheduled to lift off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 8:26 p.m. EDT (9:26 a.m. local time / 0026 UTC).
The X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM for short, which the mission team calls crism, is a collaboration between JAXA, the Japanese space agency, NASA, and ESA, the European Space Agency. X-ray telescopes need to be placed in space because the Earth’s atmosphere blocks the wavelength. X-ray observations allow astronomers to study some of the hottest and most massive objects in the Universe and the most powerful gravitational pulls, such as black holes.
Artist’s concept of the XRSIM X-ray Space Telescope in orbit. Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Imaging Laboratory. “Some of the things we hope to study with XRISM are the aftermath of starbursts and near-light-speed jets of particles launched by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies,” said Richard Kelley, NASA’s XRISM principal investigator on the Goddard spaceflight. Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But of course, we are most excited about all the unexpected phenomena that XRISM will discover as it observes our space.”
XRISM has two main instruments on board. Resolve, which will perform X-ray spectroscopy cooled to absolute zero with liquid helium, and Xtend, a camera that will image space with X-ray vision.
Artist’s impression of the SLIM Light Lunar Landing Technology Demonstration Mission. Image: JAXA. Also, the H-2A rocket is SLIM, short for Smart Lander for Investigating Moon. It is a lightweight 700kg spacecraft designed to demonstrate navigation systems for precision landing on the Moon in rugged lunar terrain. The craft will use a fuel-efficient trajectory that will take about four months to reach the Moon.
A live webcast of the launch will begin at 7:55 PM EDT (2355 UTC).