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Marshall Space Flight Center Fact Sheet

Quick Facts:The Chandra X-ray Observatory

NASA's newest space telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, will allow scientists from around the world to obtain unprecedented X-ray images and spectra of violent, high-temperature events and objects to help us better understand the structure and evolution of our universe.

It will also serve as a unique tool to study detailed physics in a unique laboratory -- the universe itself , one that cannot be replicated here on Earth.

Managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Chandra is a sophisticated, state-of-the-art instrument that represents a tremendous technological advance in X-ray astronomy.

Did you know?
  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight-times greater resolution and will be able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory, with its Inertial Upper Stage and support equipment, is the largest and heaviest payload ever launched by the Space Shuttle.

  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory's operating orbit takes it 200-times higher than the Hubble Space Telescope. During each orbit of the Earth, Chandra travels one-third of the way to the Moon.

  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory's resolving power is , 0.5 arc-seconds -- equal to the ability to read the letters of a stop sign at a distance of 12 miles. Put another way, Chandra's resolving power is equivalent to the ability to read a 1-centimeter newspaper headline at the distance of a half-mile.

  • If the State of Colorado were as smooth as the surface of the Chandra X-ray Observatory mirrors, Pike's Peak would be less than an inch tall.

  • Another of NASA's incredible time machines, the Chandra X-ray Observatory will be able to study some quasars as they were 10 billion years ago.

  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory will observe X-rays from clouds of gas so vast that it takes light more than five-million years to go from one side to the other.

  • Although nothing can escape the incredible gravity of a black hole, not even light, the Chandra X-ray Observatory will be able to study particles up to the last millisecond before they are sucked inside.

  • It took almost four centuries to advance from Galileo's first telescope to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope — an increase in observing power of about a half-billion times. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is about one-billion times more powerful than the first X-ray telescope, and we have made that leap in slightly more than three decades.


Chandra Mission at a Glance:

Chandra X-ray Observatory Mission Duration



Chandra science mission
Approx. 5 yrs


Orbital Activation & Checkout period
Approx. 2 mos


Orbital Data


Inclination
28.5 degrees


Altitude at apogee
86,487 sm


Altitude at perigee
5,999 sm


Orbital period
64 hrs


Observing time per orbital period
Up to 55 hrs


Dimensions


Length , (Sun shade open)
45.3'


Length , (Sun shade closed
38.7'


Width , (Solar arrays deployed)
64.0'


Width , (Solar arrays stowed)
14.0'


Weights


Dry
10,560 lbs


Propellant
2,153 lbs


Pressurant
10 lbs


Total at launch
12,930 lbs


Integral Propulsion System


Liquid Apogee Engines
4 engines
(Only 2 used at a time)


Fuel
Hydrazine


Oxidizer
Nitrogen tetroxide


Thrust per engine
105 lbs


Electrical Power


Solar Arrays
2 arrays
3 panels each


Power generated
2,350 watts


Electrical power storage
3 batteries
40-amp-hour
nickel hydrogen


Communications


Antennas
2 low-gain antennas


Communication links
Shuttle Payload Interrogator
Deep Space Network


Command link
2 kbs per second


Data downlink
32 kbs to 1024 kbs


On-board Data Capture


Method
Solid-state recorder


Capacity
1.8 gbs
16.8 hrs


High Resolution Mirror Assembly


Configuration
4 sets of nested,
grazing incidence
paraboloid/hyperboloid
mirror pairs


Mirror Weight
2,093 lbs


Focal length
33 ft


Outer diameter
4 ft


Length
33.5 in


Material
Zerodur


Coating
600 angstroms of iridium


Attitude Control & Pointing


Reaction wheels
6


Inertial reference units
2


Aspect camera
1.40 deg x 1.40 deg fov


Science Instruments


Charged Coupled Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS)


High Resolution Camera (HRC)


High Energy Transmission Grating (HETG)


Low Energy Transmission Grating (LETG)

The Inertial Upper Stage



Dimensions


Length
17.0'


Diameter
9.25'


Weights


Stage 1 , Dry
2,566 lbs


Stage 1 , Propellant
19,621 lbs


Stage 1 - Total
22,187 lbs


Stage 2 , Dry
2,379 lbs


Stage 2 , Propellant
6,016 lbs


Stage 2 - Total
8,395 lbs


Total Inertial Upper Stage , At launch
30,582 lbs


Performance


Thrust , Stage 1
46,198 lbs, average


Burn Duration , Stage 1
125 seconds


Thrust , Stage 2
16,350 lbs, average


Burn Duration , Stage 2
117 seconds

Support Equipment



Weights


Airborne Support Equipment
5,365 lbs


Other
1,285 lbs


Total Support Equipment
6,650 lbs

Total Payload

Weight


Total Chandra/IUS/Support

equipment at liftoff
50,162 lbs


Length


Total IUS/Chandra
57.0'


FS-1999-09-111-MSFC
August 1999

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