X-ray telescope mast successfully deployed

June 22, 2012 at 6:06 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., June 22 (UPI) -- NASA says its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has deployed its lengthy mast, preparing to observe the highest energy X-rays in our universe.

On Thursday, nine days after launch, engineers at mission control sent a signal to the spacecraft to start extending the 33-foot mast that will help the spacecraft obtain crisp images of high-energy X-rays for the first time, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reported.

By separating the telescope's mirrors from the detectors, the mast will provide the distance needed to focus the X-rays, scientists said.

"It's a real pleasure to know that the mast, an accomplished feat of engineering, is now in its final position," Yunjin Kim, NuSTAR project manager at JPL, said.

The full process of extending the mast took about 26 minutes, and its successful deployment was met with cheers from engineers and astronomers, JPL said.

The NuSTAR team will now begin to verify the pointing and motion capabilities of the satellite and fine-tune the alignment of the mast and in about five days will instruct NuSTAR to take its "first light" pictures to calibrate the telescope, NASA reported.

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