Allen Kenitzer Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

February 11, 1993 (Phone: 301/286-2806) Release: 93-28 ASTRO-D MISSION TO LAUNCH TONIGHT IN JAPAN Astro-D, a cooperative x-ray astronomy mission with Japan's Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and NASA, is scheduled for launching tonight, Feb. 11 at 9 p.m. EST, from the ISAS Kagoshima Space Center in Japan. Astro-D has been specifically designed to help understand the physics of a variety of cosmic sources. With its high sensitivity and high spectroscopic capability, the investigations with Astro-D will span virtually all classes of astronomical objects. Astro-D is expected to make important contributions to the advancement of astrophysics and cosmology. "We have done x-ray astronomy investigations with better imaging characteristics and have done others with better spectroscopic sensitivity," said Dr. Steve Holt, Astro-D Project Scientist, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "But combining relatively modest imaging performance with powerful spectroscopic sensitivity gives us the ability to perform literally thousands of observations that we could not do before." This high-capability x-ray observatory will launch on an ISAS M-3SII rocket into a circular orbit, approximately 340-409 miles (550-650 kilometers) above the Earth. The observatory combines the conical-foil mirror technology of the Broad Band X-Ray Telescope (BBXRT), which flew on the

Space Shuttle Columbia in December 1990, with the Charge Coupled Device (CCD) detector technology being developed for the Advanced X-Ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), to perform imaging spectroscopy in the wavelength band from less than 1 KeV (1000 electron volts) to 12 KeV. - more -2The observatory is equipped with four sets of conical, grazing incidence, thin-foil x-ray mirrors provided by Goddard. The mirror technology was developed by Dr. Peter Serlemitsos and his Goddard colleagues. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, under the leadership of Dr. George Ricker, is providing two CCD-based detectors. Japan is providing the balance of the science payload, the spacecraft, the launch vehicle and overall program management. The Astro-D software was developed by a team of Japanese and U.S. scientists from ISAS, Goddard and U.S. and Japanese universities. During early operations, the four telescopes will point at approximately two targets per day. This will be increased to as many as six per day by the end of the first year of operation. These targets will include supernova remnants, stars, neutron stars, black holes, active galactic nuclei and clusters of galaxies. A significant portion of the Astro-D observing time will be made available to international investigators. Under the guest observer program, 60 percent of the observing time is allotted to Japanese observers, 15 percent to U.S. observers and 25 percent for collaborative U.S./Japan observations. The approximate U.S. cost for the development of the Astro-D mission is $10 million, which is less than 10 percent of the equivalent Japanese contribution to the mission. The U.S. portion of the Astro-D mission is managed by Goddard for NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications, Washington, D.C. - end -