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A small X-ray telescope was boosted into orbit by an air-launched Pegasus XL rocket Wednesday, the first step in an ambitious low-cost mission to study supermassive black holes believed to be lurking at the cores of galaxies like Earth's Milky Way and to probe the creation of heavy elements in the cataclysmic death throes of massive stars. The mission's unique telescope design includes a 10 m mast, which was folded up in a small canister during launch. In about seven days, engineers will command the mast to extend, enabling the telescope to focus properly. About 23 days later, science operations are scheduled to begin. In addition to black holes and their powerful jets, NuSTAR will study a host of high-energy objects in our universe, including the remains of exploded stars; compact, dead stars; and clusters of galaxies. The mission's observations, in coordination with other telescopes such as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which detects lower-energy X-rays, will help solve fundamental cosmic mysteries. NuSTAR also will study our sun's fiery atmosphere, looking for clues as to how it is heated. NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by the Caltech and managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Alternate Names

  • 38358
  • Explorer 93
  • Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)
  • SMEX/NuStar
  • Small Explorer/NuSTAR

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 2012-06-13
Launch Vehicle: Pegasus XL
Launch Site: Kwajalein, Republic of the Marshall Islands


  • Astronomy

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office

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