NASA's NuSTAR ships to Vandenberg for March 14 launch

Jan 25, 2012
NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, mission is seen here being lowered into its shipping container at Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va. The spacecraft is headed to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California, where it will be mated to its rocket. It is scheduled to launch from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands on March 14. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Orbital

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, shipped to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Tuesday, to be mated to its Pegasus launch vehicle. The observatory will detect X-rays from objects ranging from our sun to giant black holes billions of light-years away. It is scheduled to launch March 14 from an aircraft operating out of Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

"The NuSTAR mission is unique because it will be the first to focus X-rays in the high-energy range, creating the most detailed images ever taken in this slice of the ," said Fiona Harrison, the mission's principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

The observatory shipped from Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Va., where the spacecraft and science instrument were integrated. It is scheduled to arrive at Vandenberg on Jan. 27, where it will be mated to the Pegasus, also built by Orbital, on Feb. 17.

The mission will be launched from the L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft, which will take off near the equator from Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. NuSTAR and its Pegasus will fly from Vandenberg to Kwajalein attached to the underside of the L-1011, and are scheduled to arrive on March 7.

On launch day, after the airplane arrives at the planned drop site over the ocean, the Pegaus will drop from the L-1011 and carry NuSTAR to an orbit around Earth.

"NuSTAR is an engineering achievement, incorporating state-of-the-art high-energy X-ray mirrors and detectors that will enable years of astronomical discovery," said Yunjin Kim, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

NuSTAR's advanced telescope consists of two sets of 133 concentric shells of mirrors, which were shaped from flexible glass similar to that found in laptop screens. Because X-rays require large focusing distances, or focal lengths, the telescope has a lengthy 33-foot (10-meter) mast, which will unfold a week after launch.

These and other advances in technology will enable NuSTAR to explore the cosmic world of high-energy X-rays with much improved sensitivity and resolution over previous missions. During its two-year primary mission, NuSTAR will map the celestial sky in X-rays, surveying , mapping supernova remnants, and studying particle jets travelling away from black holes near the speed of light.

NuSTAR also will probe the sun, looking for microflares theorized to be on the surface that could explain how the sun's million-degree corona, or atmosphere, is heated. It will even test a theory of dark matter, the mysterious substance making up about one-quarter of our universe, by searching the sun for evidence of a hypothesized dark matter particle.

"NuSTAR will provide an unprecedented capability to discover and study some of the most exotic objects in the universe, from the corpses of exploded stars in the Milky Way to supermassive black holes residing in the hearts of distant galaxies," said Lou Kaluzienski, program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Explore further: Solar storm arrives at Earth, but not a problem

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Approves X-ray Space Mission

Sep 07, 2009

NASA recently confirmed that the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, mission will launch in August 2011.

NASA NuSTAR Telescope Being Built at Nevis

Dec 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- It's an unlikely place to build a NASA telescope: a leafy estate in Irvington, N.Y., that once belonged to the son of Alexander Hamilton. Inside a hangar-like building on the site, which is ...

Small Explorer Mission to Set Solar System Boundaries

Jan 27, 2005

A satellite that will make the first map of the boundary between the Solar System and interstellar space has been selected as part of NASA's Small Explorer program. The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission will be ...

Why Won't the Supernova Explode?

Jan 07, 2010

A massive old star is about to die a spectacular death. As its nuclear fuel runs out, it begins to collapse under its own tremendous weight. The crushing pressure inside the star skyrockets, triggering new ...

'Extreme Physics' Observatory Prepares for Flight

May 18, 2006

Scientists and engineers have completed assembly of the primary instrument for the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, a breakthrough orbiting observatory scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in ...

Recommended for you

SpaceX's next cargo launch set for Sept 20

Sep 12, 2014

SpaceX's next unmanned cargo trip to restock supplies at the International Space Station is scheduled for September 20, the US space agency said Friday.

Not just cool – it's a gas

Sep 12, 2014

In space, a new way of producing gas is being tested for steering satellites. On Earth, it is now fighting fires without harming the environment – and business insiders say it could be revolutionary.

Solar storm heads Earth's way after double sun blasts

Sep 11, 2014

Two big explosions on the surface of the sun will cause a moderate to strong geomagnetic storm on Earth in the coming days, possibly disrupting radio and satellite communications, scientists said Thursday.

User comments : 0