NuSTAR arrives at island launch site

Jun 08, 2012 By Whitney Clavin
The plane that will carry NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and its rocket to their airborne launch site arrives at Kwajalein Atoll, a coral island located midway between Hawaii and Australia. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, and its rocket flew above the palm trees to arrive at their launch location at the U.S. Army's Reagan test site at Kwajalein Atoll. Kwajalein, located midway between Hawaii and Australia, is one of the world's largest atolls -- coral islands with lagoons in the middle. The mission is scheduled to launch June 13 no earlier than 8:30 a.m. PDT (11:30 a.m. EDT).

Currently, NuSTAR is tucked into the top of the rocket, a Pegasus XL from Orbital Sciences Corporation, which is strapped to the bottom of a carrier plane, the L-1011 "Stargazer," also from Orbital.

About an hour before launch, NuSTAR and its rocket will be flown out over the Pacific Ocean and dropped. Five seconds later, the rocket will ignite and boost NuSTAR into its final orbit around Earth's . A video showing a previous Pegasus is below:

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va. Its instrument was built by a consortium including Caltech; JPL; the University of California, Berkeley; Columbia University, New York; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; the Danish Technical University in Denmark; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif.; and ATK Aerospace Systems, Goleta, Calif. will be operated by UC Berkeley, with the Italian Space Agency providing its equatorial ground station located at Malindi, Kenya. The mission's outreach program is based at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, Calif. NASA's Explorer Program is managed by Goddard. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

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More information: Live launch commentary and coverage will be broadcast online beginning at 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) at www.nasa.gov, www.nasa.gov/nustar and www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2

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