The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft was launched on a Pegasus XL rocket which was dropped from a Lockheed L-1011 "TriStar" aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean near the Kwajalein Atoll on June 13, 2012, as can be seen in this video. NuSTAR, the first focusing high-energy X-ray telescope in orbit, operates in the band from 3 to 79 keV, extending the sensitivity of focusing far beyond the ~10 keV high-energy cutoff achieved by all previous X-ray-imaging satellites. To attain the required 10m focal length needed for its telescopes, NuSTAR used a unique deployable mast, or boom, that extended the optics after the payload was in orbit.
The inherently low background associated with concentrating the X-ray light enables NuSTAR to probe the hard X-ray sky with a more than 100-fold improvement in sensitivity over the collimated or coded mask instruments that have operated in this bandpass.
Using its unprecedented combination of sensitivity and spatial and spectral resolution, NuSTAR is pursuing five primary scientific objectives:
(1) probing obscured active galactic nucleus (AGN) activity out to the peak epoch of galaxy assembly in the universe (at z <~ 2) by surveying selected regions of the sky;
(2) studying the population of hard X-ray-emitting compact objects in the Galaxy by mapping the central regions of the Milky Way;
(3) studying the non-thermal radiation in young supernova remnants, both the hard X-ray continuum and the emission from the radioactive element 44Ti;
(4) observing blazars contemporaneously with ground-based radio, optical, and TeV telescopes, as well as with Fermi and Swift, so as to constrain the structure of AGN jets; and
(5) observing line and continuum emission from core-collapse supernovae in the Local Group, and from nearby Type Ia events, to constrain explosion models.
During its baseline two-year mission, NuSTAR will also undertake a broad program of targeted observations. The observatory consists of two co-aligned grazing-incidence X-ray telescopes pointed at celestial targets by a three-axis stabilized spacecraft. Deployed into a 600 km, near-circular, 6 degree inclination orbit, the observatory has completed commissioning, and is performing consistent with pre-launch expectations. NuSTAR is now executing its primary science mission, and with an expected orbit lifetime of 10 yr, it is anticipated that a guest investigator program will be proposed. If approved this will begin in late 2014. There was an opportunity to propose for NuSTAR observing time as part of a joint NuSTAR/XMM-Newton observing program in the recent XMM-Newton Cycle 13 AO. Such joint observations are planned to begin in May 2014. There is also an upcoming opportunity to propose for NuSTAR observing time as part of a joint Chandra/NuSTAR observing program in the Chandra Cycle 16 Call for Proposals (proposals are due by March 13, 2014) in which up to 500 ksec of NuSTAR observing time will be made available. More details on the joint NuSTAR/XMM-Newton and NuSTAR/Chandra opportunities are available on the Caltech NuSTAR website.
Further Information about NuSTAR maintained by theNuSTAR Project at Caltech: