Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer
RXTE 3D Model
Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer satellite
NamesExplorer 69
RXTE
XTE
Mission typeAstronomy
OperatorNASA
COSPAR ID1995-074A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.23757
WebsiteRXTE home page
Mission duration16 years (achieved)
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftExplorer LXVIX
Spacecraft typeRossi X-ray Timing Explorer
BusX-ray Timing Explorer
ManufacturerGoddard Space Flight Center
Launch mass3,200 kg (7,100 lb)
Power800 watts
Start of mission
Launch date30 December 1995, 13:48:00 UTC
RocketDelta II 7920-10 (Delta 230)
Launch siteCape Canaveral, SLC-17A
ContractorMcDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company
Entered service30 December 1995
End of mission
Deactivated12 January 2012
Decay date30 April 2018 [1]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit[2]
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Perigee altitude409 km (254 mi)
Apogee altitude409 km (254 mi)
Inclination28.50°
Period92.60 minutes
Instruments
ASM All Sky Monitor (ASM)
HEXTE High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE)
PCA Proportional Counter Array (PCA)
 

The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) was a NASA satellite that observed the time variation of astronomical X-ray sources, named after physicist Bruno Rossi. The RXTE had three instruments — an All Sky Monitor, the High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE) and the Proportional Counter Array. The RXTE observed X-rays from black holes, neutron stars, X-ray pulsars and X-ray bursts. It was funded as part of the Explorer program, and was also called Explorer 69.

RXTE had a mass of 3,200 kg (7,100 lb) and was launched from Cape Canaveral on 30 December 1995, at 13:48:00 UTC, on a Delta II launch vehicle. Its International Designator is 1995-074A.[3]

Mission

The X-Ray Timing Explorer (XTE) mission has the primary objective to study the temporal and broad-band spectral phenomena associated with stellar and galactic systems containing compact objects in the energy range 2--200 KeV, and in time scales from microseconds to years. The scientific instruments consists of two pointed instruments, the Proportional Counter Array (PCA) and the High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE), and the All Sky Monitor (ASM), which scans over 70% of the sky each orbit. All of the XTE observing time were available to the international scientific community through a peer review of submitted proposals. XTE used a new spacecraft design that allows flexible operations through rapid pointing, high data rates, and nearly continuous receipt of data at the Science Operations Center (SOC) at Goddard Space Flight Center via a Multiple Access link to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). XTE was highly maneuverable with a slew rate of greater than 6° per minute. The PCA/HEXTE could be pointed anywhere in the sky to an accuracy of less than 0.1°, with an aspect knowledge of around 1 arcminute. Rotatable solar panels enable anti-sunward pointing to coordinate with ground-based night-time observations. Two pointable high gain antennas maintain nearly continuous communication with the TDRSS. This, together with 1 GB (approximately four orbits) of on-board solid-state data storage, give added flexibility in scheduling observations.[3]

Telecommunications

Instruments

XTE launch
XTE launch
RXTE preparations in 1995
RXTE preparations in 1995

All-Sky Monitor (ASM)

The All-Sky Monitor (ASM) provided all-sky X-ray coverage, to a sensitivity of a few percent of the Crab Nebula intensity in one day, in order to provide both flare alarms and long-term intensity records of celestial X-ray sources.[5] The ASM consisted of three wide-angle shadow cameras equipped with proportional counters with a total collecting area of 90 cm2 (14 sq in). The instrumental properties were:[6][7]

It was built by the CSR at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The principal investigator was Dr. Hale Bradt.

High Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE)

The High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE) is a scintillator array for the study of temporal and temporal/spectral effects of the hard X-ray (20 to 200 keV) emission from galactic and extragalactic sources.[8] The HEXTE consisted of two clusters each containing four phoswich scintillation detectors. Each cluster could "rock" (beamswitch) along mutually orthogonal directions to provide background measurements 1.5° or 3.0° away from the source every 16 to 128 seconds. In addition, the input was sampled at 8 microseconds so as to detect time varying phenomena. Automatic gain control was provided by using an 241
Am
radioactive source mounted in each detector's field of view. The HEXTE's basic properties were:[9]

The HEXTE was designed and built by the Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences (CASS) at the University of California, San Diego. The HEXTE principal investigator was Dr. Richard E. Rothschild.

Proportional Counter Array (PCA)

The Proportional Counter Array (PCA) provides approximately 6,500 cm2 (1,010 sq in) of X-ray detector area, in the energy range 2 to 60 keV, for the study of temporal/spectral effects in the X-ray emission from galactic and extragalactic sources.[10] The PCA was an array of five proportional counters with a total collecting area of 6,500 cm2 (1,010 sq in). The instrumental properties were:[11]

The PCA is being built by the Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics (LHEA) at Goddard Space Flight Center. The principal investigator was Dr. Jean H. Swank.[11]

Results

Observations from the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer have been used as evidence for the existence of the frame-dragging effect predicted by the theory of general relativity of Einstein. RXTE results have, as of late 2007, been used in more than 1400 scientific papers.

In January 2006, it was announced that Rossi had been used to locate a candidate intermediate-mass black hole named M82 X-1.[12] In February 2006, data from RXTE was used to prove that the diffuse background X-ray glow in our galaxy comes from innumerable, previously undetected white dwarfs and from other stars' coronae.[13] In April 2008, RXTE data was used to infer the size of the smallest known black hole.[14]

RXTE ceased science operations on 12 January 2012.[15]

Atmospheric entry

NASA scientists said that the decommissioned RXTE would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere "between 2014 and 2023".[16] Later, it became clear that the satellite would re-enter in late April or early May 2018,[17] and the spacecraft fell out of orbit on 30 April 2018.[18]

See also

References

  1. ^ "NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer Leaves Scientific "Treasure Trove"". NASA. Retrieved 3 May 2018. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "Trajectory: X-Ray Timing Explorer (1995-074A) Explorer 69". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b "Display: X-Ray Timing Explorer (1995-074A) Explorer 69". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ "Telecommunications Description". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ "Experiment: All-Sky Monitor (ASM)". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ "All-Sky Monitor (ASM)". Heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov. 4 February 2002. Retrieved 3 February 2012. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "The RXTE All Sky Monitor Data Products". NASA. 26 August 1997. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ "Experiment: High Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE)". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  9. ^ "High Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE)". NASA. 14 September 1999. Retrieved 3 February 2012. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  10. ^ "Experiment: Proportional Counter Array (PCA)". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ a b "Proportional Counter Array (PCA)". NASA. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Dying Star Reveals More Evidence for New Kind of Black Hole". Science Blog. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  13. ^ "Galactic Glow Gleaned".
  14. ^ "NASA Scientists Identify Smallest Known Black Hole". 1 April 2008. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ "The RXTE Mission is Approaching the End of Science Operations". 4 January 2012. Archived from the original on 7 January 2004. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  16. ^ "NASA's ageing black hole-stalking probe switched off". 11 January 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  17. ^ "NASA Frequently Asked Questions: RXTE Spacecraft Re-entry". NASA. 25 April 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  18. ^ "A Pioneering NASA Satellite Just Fell to Earth After 2 Decades in Space". Space.com. 15 May 2018. Retrieved 28 November 2021.