NuSTAR Will Ride Pegasus XL to Orbit

by Nancy Atkinson on February 9, 2009

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Artist concept of NuSTAR in orbit.  Credit: NASA/JPL

Artist concept of NuSTAR in orbit. Credit: NASA/JPL


NASA announced today Orbital Sciences Corporation will launch the first high energy X-ray telescope, NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) on board a Pegasus XL rocket. Orbital has also been the prime industrial contractor for building NuSTAR itself. The spacecraft will fly in 2011, launching from the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site located at the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll. NuSTAR is the first satellite to fly a focusing X-ray telescope in space for energies in the 8-80 keV range, searching for black holes and supernova remnants.

NuSTAR was canceled in February 2006, but NASA restarted the program in September 2007, after Alan Stern took over as associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate NASA. “NuSTAR has more than 500 times the sensitivity of previous instruments that detect black holes,” Stern said in 2007. “It’s a great opportunity for us to explore an important astronomical frontier.”

NuSTAR will conduct a census for black holes, map radioactive material in young supernovae remnants, and study the origins of cosmic rays and the extreme physics around collapsed stars.

A Pegasus rocket in flight.  Credit: Orbital Science Corp.

A Pegasus rocket in flight. Credit: Orbital Science Corp.


The Pegasus is one of the most reliable launch system for the deployment of small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit. Its patented air-launch system, where the rocket is launched from beneath Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 carrier aircraft over the ocean, reduces cost and provides customers with unparalleled flexibility to operate from virtually anywhere on Earth. The Pegasus rocket has been flying since 1990, and has successfully conducted over 54 space launch missions.

The total cost of the NuSTAR launch services is approximately $36 million dollars. This estimated cost includes the task ordered launch service for a Pegasus XL rocket, plus additional services under other contracts for payload processing, launch vehicle integration, and tracking, data and telemetry support.

Source: NASA

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

robbi February 9, 2009 at 6:21 PM

Great,this HE X-ray telescope will be a big boost to help understand about violent events and may help to solve many questions we have about cosmic rays all the way to the UltraHighEnergyCosmicRays that I
believe are created by very massive stars 50-100x mass of the Sun that collapses all the way to a black hole. There are many other questions this HE X-ray telescope will help solve, but it can also raise questions about findings this HE X-ray scope may discover we have as yet don’t know about.

Astrofiend February 9, 2009 at 8:36 PM

I always love another x-ray scope up there. Should be a lovely compliment to those we currently have lofted.

robbi February 9, 2009 at 8:50 PM

Astrofriend-I agree 100% ,- for such a relatively low price and the potential findings
excites me much. I’m happy NuSTAR project was restarted and about ready to go.

robbi February 9, 2009 at 9:34 PM

Astrofriend- I thought at first OilIsMastery was just a ‘spammer’, as he posted more I thought he was more of a smarta__spammer, but, when I checked his website, I said I better get out of ‘dodge’ because my education and career was about Computer Science and Applications, and I am nowhere near an expert on Gravity or Electricity, and is far beyond my comprehension although I know a little about gravity and electricity to say I better stay away. I have retired 2 years ago and now just a serious amature astronomer and a ‘puter geek.. I can imagine such discussions on these feeds can evolve into a protracted Internet ‘bar-room brawl’ concerning the ‘Exchange of Truths’ . So, I’ll just read the posts and post on thing I may know about and see if I can learn more about how the Earth and Universe really works as IMHO, this is a very interesting and
informative site

Astrofiend February 10, 2009 at 12:41 AM

Hey Robbi,

At the risk of starting yet another blue with oils, I’d have to agree – best to stay away from his site. His ideas are highly unorthodox is about the kindest and most diplomatic way I could put it. Blatantly and provably wrong would be a more accurate way in my opinion. His vague theories seem to be based on nothing more than the flimsiest piecemeal arguments, his ‘evidence’ comes in the form of out-of-context soundbite quotes from various dead scientists that he claims supported his theory (despite often being on the record with a completely contradictory and altogether more mainstream view), and you will never ever hear him say ‘my theory will be proven wrong if such-and-such evidence is found that contradicts it’. Any true scientist will immediately furnish you with a way in which their theory may be disproven – it is the most important aspect of the whole scientific method.

Anyway, UniverseToday is a great site to learn more. So is ‘Bad Astronomy’ – a sort of ‘sister site’ for UT. The BAUT forums are a great place to learn too – there are people on there far more knowledgeable than I.

Some basic textbooks on physics and astronomy are a great resource too! That’s the best thing about this obsession of ours – there’s always more to learn, and always someone who knows more. It’s great fun.

Anaconda February 10, 2009 at 12:42 AM

I hope this X-ray detection instrument will be used with an open-mind to observe & measure all objects and phenomenon that emit x-rays. Science knows that X-rays can be emitted by high energy synchrotron radiation.

Synchrotron radiation is electrons spriralling around a magnetic field — also known as electric current — a phenomenon of electromagnetism.

Aodhhan February 10, 2009 at 5:42 AM

This will more than compliment, it will allow us to detail the environment of BH better than ever before. Although, I will feel a lot better about it, once it is strapped to a L1011 or B-52 and it leaves the ground. Don’t know if I could handle another cancellation.

Don’t be too impressed with other individuals web sites unless you really know them. This is the Internet, where you can be anyone you want, and post others work in a neat way to unceremoniously take credit.

Pretty simple to figure out when you converse with someone, and they can’t hold water any better than a strainer.

robbi February 10, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Astrofriend,
Thank you for your reply, I will stay to my longtime beliefs on gravity, and keep an open mind by sometimes ‘thinking outside the box’, but when I research it more in my mind and and then look at the photos of the same objects like M82,NGC 604,countless other exotic objects taken with conventional, x-rays ,infrared,ultraviolet,etc, composites , it again gets back to gravity.I do have to admit I have to sometimes get back to basics with basic Physics books or E-books and basic Astronomy books or E-books. I’ve recently purchased basic Astronomy books, some quite advanced on extreme stars and what
incredible advances made and known compared to what I knew as a child about 50years ago (I’m a youthful 57 with grandsons Lol) . I’ve glanced earlier at Bad Astronomy, the first glimses I saw was UFO, 2012 junk so I bypassed it , and instead go to reading info from such sites as Chandra, space.com,StarryNite Yahoo group per Telescopes as I have a 14″ S-C scope, Hubble,Nasa,others as I have about 300 favorites from Astronomy alone, however, when you mentioned Bad Astronomy, you gave me a great idea I should read these posts, and I am now finding some are entertaining and humorous,but the posters may not think so, lol, but it is also a great source of knowledge and IMHO, more knowledge is fun. Thank you for you info and take care.

Michal Václavík February 15, 2009 at 7:32 AM

The number of Pegasus rocket missions is not correct. 54 is total number OSC missions including 40 times Pegasus, 7 times Taurus, 7 times Minotaur I. Please, could you emend it?

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