NASAs Ultraviolet Astronomy Mission Gets Selected and Launch Delayed by Two Years

NASA has recently announced that the Ultraviolet Explorer (UVEX) spacecraft has been chosen for development as its next astrophysics Medium-class Explorer mission. This spacecraft will conduct a comprehensive all-sky survey at ultraviolet wavelengths, with the main objective of identifying ultraviolet sources of energetic events.

Led by Caltech astronomer Fiona Harrison, the UVEX mission will also have partners such as the University of California at Berkeley, Northrop Grumman, and Space Dynamics Laboratory. However, due to budget challenges within the astrophysics program, there has been a two-year delay in the launch of UVEX.

The delay in the launch of UVEX provides an opportunity for an extended phase of development, known as phase B. During this period, the project will focus on accommodating budget issues and giving priority to missions that are already in the development phase.

This delay did not come as a surprise, as former director of NASA’s astrophysics division, Paul Hertz, had previously warned about potential delays due to reduced budgets projected for fiscal year 2023. The selection of UVEX as the next astrophysics mission, along with the announcement of the delay, highlights the budget pressures that NASA is currently facing in its astrophysics programs.

In addition to UVEX, NASA also selected two other projects, Moon Burst Energetics All-sky Monitor (MoonBEAM) and A Large Area burst Polarimeter (LEAP), as missions of opportunity. However, these projects were not chosen for development due to the budget pressures mentioned earlier.

As NASA works to navigate these budget challenges, there are concerns about potential cuts in funding for two of its most significant observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Mark Clampin, the current director of NASA’s astrophysics division, is actively prioritizing missions and striving to maintain a balanced portfolio across all aspects of astrophysics.

With the selection of UVEX and the delay in its launch, NASA is facing a critical period in its astrophysics programs. The agency is working diligently to manage budget pressures, allocate resources wisely, and maintain its commitment to advancing our understanding of the universe through groundbreaking missions.

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