Early X-ray Astrophysics Rocket Flights

  • Explorer 1, the first American satellite, launched January 31, 1958. Explorer 1 discovered the Van Allen radiation belts around the Earth. These radiation belts are a dominant source of background noise in X-ray detectors.
  • The ASE-MIT experiment payload launched 1 minute before midnight on 18 June 1962 using a USAF Areobee 150 rocket. This rocket was above 80 km for a total of 5 min and 50 sec, and reached a maximum altitude of 225 Km. As the spinning rocket climbed above 80 km the doors opened and discovered the first evidence for cosmic X-ray radiation from beyond our solar system. This flight discovered Sco X-1, the brightest X-ray source in the sky and now known to be an X-ray binary system. The flight also discovered an intense X-ray background, which is now believed to be the superposition of many fainter extragalactic sources known as active galactic nuclei (AGN).

Photo of the Aerobee 150 Payload
The Aerobee 150 Payload

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