NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has successfully deployed its lengthy mast, giving it the ability to see the highest-energy X-rays in the universe. The mission is one step closer to beginning its hunt for black holes hiding in our Milky Way and other galaxies.
“It’s a real pleasure to know that the mast, an accomplished feat of engineering, is now in its final position,” said Yunjin Kim, the NuSTAR project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Kim was also the project manager for the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, which flew a similar mast on the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2000 and made topographic maps of Earth.
NuSTAR’s mast is one of several innovations allowing the telescope to take crisp images of high-energy X-rays for the first time. It separates the telescope mirrors from the detectors, providing the distance needed to focus the X-rays. This is the first deployable mast ever used on a space telescope.
Above is an artist’s conception of NuSTAR in orbit.
NuSTAR was launched into orbit June 12. The telescope array was built by a consortium including NASA; the Danish Technical University in Denmark; the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley); the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; Columbia University in New York; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 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 at Malindi, Kenya.