Inside the Orbital Sciences processing facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, awaits launch. The spacecraft has been mated with its Pegasus XL rocket and enclosed in the Pegasus payload fairing on the forward end of the rocket, at left.
The fairing will protect the spacecraft from the heat and aerodynamic pressure generated during the rocket’s ascent to orbit. After processing of the rocket and spacecraft are complete, they will be flown on Orbital's L-1011 carrier aircraft from Vandenberg to the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on the Pacific Ocean’s Kwajalein Atoll for launch in March. The high-energy X-ray telescope will conduct a census of black holes, map radioactive material in young supernovae remnants, and study the origins of cosmic rays and the extreme physics around collapsed stars. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/nustar. Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin, VAFB