Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer

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Artist concept of NICER aboard the ISS
Mission type Neutron star astrophysics
Operator NASA / GSFC / MIT
Mission duration Planned: 18 months
Start of mission
Launch date Planned: May 2017[1]
Rocket Falcon 9
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-40
Contractor SpaceX
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 400 km (250 mi)[2]
Apogee 400 km (250 mi)[2]
Inclination 51.6°[2]
Period 92.6 min[2]
Epoch October 2015 (ISS)[2]
X-ray Timing Instrument (XTI)

The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is a future NASA Explorers program Mission of Opportunity dedicated to the study of the extraordinary gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear physics environments embodied by neutron stars, exploring the exotic states of matter where density and pressure are higher than in atomic nuclei. NICER will enable rotation-resolved spectroscopy of the thermal and non-thermal emissions of neutron stars in the soft (0.2–12 keV) X-ray band with unprecedented sensitivity, probing interior structure, the origins of dynamic phenomena, and the mechanisms that underlie the most powerful cosmic particle accelerators known.[3] NICER will achieve these goals by deploying, following launch, an X-ray timing and spectroscopy instrument as an attached payload aboard the International Space Station (ISS). NICER was selected by NASA to proceed to formulation phase in April 2013.[4]

An enhancement to the NICER mission, the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT), will act as a technology demonstrator for X-ray pulsar-based navigation (XNAV) techniques that may one day be used for deep-space navigation.[5]

As part of NICER testing, a rapid-modulation X-ray device was developed called Modulated X-ray Source (MXS), which is being used to create an X-ray communication system (XCOM) demonstration. If approved and installed on the ISS, XCOM will transmit data encoded into X-ray bursts to the NICER platform, which may lead to the development of technologies that allow for gigabit bandwidth communication throughout the Solar System.[6]

As of May 2015, NICER was on track for a 2016 launch, having passed its critical design review and resolved an issue with the power being supplied by the ISS.[7] Following the CRS-7 loss in June 2015, which delayed future missions by several months, NICER was finally scheduled to launch in May 2017[1] with the SpaceX CRS-11 ISS resupply mission aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.[8]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (17 April 2017). "Launch Schedule". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 20 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "ISS - Orbit". Heavens Above. October 27, 2015. Retrieved October 27, 2015. 
  3. ^ Gendreau, Keith C.; Arzoumanian, Zaven; Okajima, Takashi (September 2012). "The Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER): an Explorer mission of opportunity for soft x-ray timing spectroscopy" (PDF). Proceedings of the SPIE: Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2012, Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray. 8443. Bibcode:2012SPIE.8443E..13G. doi:10.1117/12.926396. 
  4. ^ Harrington, J. D. (April 5, 2013). "NASA Selects Explorer Investigations for Formulation" (Press release). NASA. Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  5. ^ Mitchell, Jason W.; Hassouneh, Munther A.; Winternitz, Luke M. B.; Valdez, Jennifer E.; Price, Samuel R.; et al. (January 2015). SEXTANT - Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (PDF). AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference. January 5-9, 2015. Kissimmee, Florida. GSFC-E-DAA-TN19095; 20150001327. 
  6. ^ Keesey, Lori (November 4, 2016). "NASA's NavCube Could Support an X-ray Communications Demonstration in Space — A NASA First". NASA. Retrieved November 5, 2016. 
  7. ^ Keesey, Lori (May 12, 2015). "NASA's Multi-Purpose NICER/SEXTANT Mission on Track for 2016 Launch". NASA. Retrieved October 27, 2015. 
  8. ^ "The Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR Mission". NASA. Retrieved 2016-02-26. Previously scheduled for a December 2016 launch on SpaceX-12, NICER will now fly to the International Space Station with two other payloads on SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-11, in the Dragon vehicle's unpressurized Trunk. 

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