NuSTAR Mission Update and Overview

Image credit: NASA

On Friday NASA announced that the launch of its newest spacecraft from California will unfortunately be delayed a bit longer. Regardless, I thought I’d post about the mission as this is a project I’m eagerly awaiting. The mission, known as NuSTAR, will map areas of the Milky Way Galaxy. This particular project is one of the least expensive NASA has ever deployed. NASA has announced that launch will hopefully occur within the next two months.

NuStar Mission Overview

One mission objective is to count collapsed stars and black holes near the center of the Milky Way. Scientists also hope to get a closer look at young supernova to understand the formation process as well as  how the different elements of supernovas are created. Furthermore, the mission team hopes to develop a deeper understanding of what powers the jets of particles streaming from the largest black holes. Scientists also hope the mission will encounter a few gamma ray bursts leading to a deeper understanding of them as well.

This will be the first time the new NuSTAR telescope will be used. The folding telescope is at least 10 times stronger than previous telescopes employed on the Chandra and XMM projects. The telescope will be folded until the rocket reaches low earth orbit where it will proceed to unfold. Mission specialists say that the time the telescope takes to unfold will be the scariest aspect of the launch. This will be one of the first times that a folding telescope has been deployed in an unmanned spacecraft.

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by the California Institute of Technology and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, both in Pasadena, Calif., for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. 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 in Greenbelt, Md.; the Danish Technical University in Denmark; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Calif.; and ATK Aerospace Systems, Goleta, Calif. NuSTAR 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, Calif. NASA’s Explorer Program is managed by Goddard. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

The mission is expected to last two years and results will be published as they become available from this exciting project.

Right now I just hope NASA get things worked out and gets this up in the sky sooner rather than later.

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