NASA Preparing to Launch Its Newest X-Ray Eyes
June 4, 2012
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is being prepared for the final journey to its launch pad on Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. The mission will study everything from massive black holes to our own sun. It is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 13.
“We will see the hottest, densest and most energetic objects with a fundamentally new, high-energy X-ray telescope that can obtain much deeper and crisper images than before,” said Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, who first conceived of the mission 20 years ago.
The images above show different views of one of two optic units onboard NuSTAR, each consisting of 133 nested, cylindrical mirror shells as thin as a fingernail. The mirrors are arranged in this way to focus as much X-ray light as possible.
“NuSTAR uses several innovations for its unprecedented imaging capability and was made possible by many partners,” said Yunjin Kim, the project manager for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena.
NuSTAR’s optics were built by a consortium including Caltech; JPL; the University of California at Berkeley; Columbia University in New York; the Danish Technical University in Denmark; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California; and ATK Aerospace Systems in Goleta, California. NuSTAR will be operated by UC Berkeley, with the Italian Space Agency providing its equatorial ground station located at Malindi, Kenya.
For more on NuSTAR, see the NASA press release.