NuStar Telescope


The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) is an pathfinder mission that is allowing astronomers to study the universe in high energy X-rays. NuSTAR was the first focusing hard X-ray telescope in space. It was launched on 13 June 2012 by a Pegasus XL rocket from the the Kwajalein Atoll.

NuSTAR Telescope Picture


NuSTAR is focusing on higher energy X-rays. X-ray telescopes such as Chandra and XMM-Newton have observed the X-ray universe at low X-ray energy levels.

NuSTAR will help us answer questions about the Universe:

– What powers the most extreme active galaxies?
– How are black holes distributed through the cosmos?
– How were heavy elements forged in the explosions of massive stars?

NuSTAR’s science objectives are:

1. Conducting a census for black holes on all scales using wide-field surveys of extragalactic fields and the Galactic center.

2. Mapping radioactive material in young supernova remnants.

3. Studying the birth of the elements and to understand how stars explode.

4. Observing relativistic jets found in the most extreme active galaxies and to understand what powers giant cosmic accelerators.

5. Study the origin of cosmic rays and the extreme physics around collapsed stars while responding to targets of opportunity including supernovae and gamma-ray bursts.


NuSTAR spacecraft was built by Orbital Corporation. It is based on Orbital’s proven LEOStar-2 design. NuSTAR was the seventh satellite to be based on this platform. Other LEOStar-based satellites that Orbital has designed and built for previous NASA scientific missions include SORCE, AIM spacecraft and GALEX

Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array Picture

Specs and Info:

Spacecraft Launch Mass: 360 kg
Mission Life: 2 Years (still active in 2016)
Redundancy: Single String
Solar Arrays: 750 W, Articulated
Stabilization: 3-axis stabilized
Orbit: 550 km, 6° inclination


The NuSTAR instrument consists of an array of two co-aligned hard X-ray telescopes. The mirrors focus onto two shielded solid-state detectors, separated by a 10 meter mast that extended from the spacecraft after launch. A laser metrology system monitors the mast alignment. Cadmium Zinc Telluride (CdZnTe) detectors are used to provide spectral resolution and high efficiency without requiring cryogenic operation.


NuSTAR is a part of NASA’s Explorer Program. The program provides frequent, low-cost access to space for missions with small to mid sized spacecraft.

NuSTAR originally was selected from proposals submitted in response to an announcement of opportunity in February 2003.

In response, NuSTAR was submitted to NASA in May as one of 36 mission proposals competing to be the 10th and 11th Small Explorer missions. In November, NASA selected NuSTAR and four other proposals for a 5 month implementation feasibility study.

In January 2005, NASA selected NuSTAR for flight pending a one-year feasibility study. The program was cancelled in February 2006 as a result of cuts to science in NASA’s 2007 budget. On 21 September, 2007 it was announced that the program had been restarted, with an expected launch on August 2011 Pegasus XL rocket from the the Kwajalein Atoll.

Nustar was launched on 13 June, 2012. The launch was the 41st flight of the air-launched Pegasus rocket and the 31st using the XL version.

Did you know?

NuSTAR’s predecessor, the High Energy Focusing Telescope (HEFT) was a balloon-borne version that carried telescopes and detectors constructed using similar technologies.

Related Books:

Astronomy Books:

A User’s Guide to the Universe: Surviving the Perils of Black Holes, Time Paradoxes, and Quantum Uncertaintyby Dave Goldberg and Jeff Blomquist

Sky & Telescope’s Pocket Sky Atlas by Roger W. Sinnott

Nustar Links:

NuSTAR – Home
Missions | Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array – JPL – NASA

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