Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array

NuSTAR is a satellite-based observatory sensitive in the hard X-ray band covering the energy range of 5-80 keV.  It has been developed and built under the auspices of NASA's Explorer program, and is led by Caltech (the PI is Prof. Fiona Harrison), with involvement of many other institutions including NASA's JPL, Columbia University, UC Berkeley, NASA-Goddard, Stanford, McGill, Danish Space Research Institute, MIT, and Yale.  It features several new technologies, including focusing optics with multi-layer coatings (necessary to reflect hard X-rays), a sensitive, pixilated CdZnTe detector camera to enable imaging, and an extendable optical mast connecting the two and allowing the required focal length of 10 meters. Those technologies enable an observatory at least 100 times more sensitive than previous facilities. 

The mission has been launched successfully on June 13, 2012, and after a brief in-orbit verification and calibration, it will commence observations of celestial sources in August 2012.  The objects studied by NuSTAR will include black holes with a wide range of masses, to determine their distribution in the Universe;  remnants of exploded stars, to study the process of formation of elements in our galaxy;  and, working in tandem with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the nature of powerful, relativistic jets, which are also source of energetic gamma-rays. 

Click the images below to see a larger version

Artist's conception of NuSTAR in an extended configuration

NuSTAR payload packed and ready to be integrated with the launch vehicle (Pegasus)

First light from NuSTAR (the target is the Galactic black hole Cyg X-1)