SpaceX to launch NASA gamma-ray space telescope in 2027

a black-and-white spacex falcon 9 rocket launches into a blue sky.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 22 Starlink satellites to orbit from Florida on June 23, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

A NASA space telescope that will study the universe in high-energy gamma-ray light will get a ride to orbit with SpaceX a few years from now.

The agency announced on Tuesday (July 2) that it has selected SpaceX's Falcon 9 to be the rocket ride for its Compton Spectrometer and Imager mission, or COSI for short. The observatory will lift off in August 2027 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, if all goes according to plan.

The fixed-price launch contract is worth $69 million, NASA officials said.

NASA selected COSI for development and launch in 2021. The astrophysics mission, whose price tag is $145 million excluding launch costs, was originally targeted to fly in 2025.

Related: NASA has selected new space telescope project to study Milky Way's evolution

"This wide-field gamma-ray telescope will study energetic phenomena in the Milky Way and beyond, including the creation and destruction of matter and antimatter and the final stages of the lives of stars," agency officials said in a statement on Tuesday.

COSI "will probe the origins of the Milky Way's galactic positrons, uncover the sites of nucleosynthesis in our galaxy, perform studies of gamma-ray polarization and find counterparts to multi-messenger sources," they added.

"Multi-messenger sources" are cosmic objects or events that can be studied using multiple types of signals — both gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation, for example.

The COSI spaceflight booking adds to a long launch manifest for the workhorse Falcon 9, which is by far the busiest rocket flying today.

The partially reusable launcher has already lifted off 67 times in 2024. Forty-eight of those missions have been devoted to building out SpaceX's Starlink internet megaconstellation in low Earth orbit.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.