One of NASA’s satellites fell to earth on April 30. The satellite called Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite has been in space for over 20 years. NASA launched the RXTE satellite in December 1995 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. This satellite did not bear the name RXTE initially. NASA named the satellite XTE during the launching.
It was later named after an MIT astronomer called Bruno Rossi. Rossi pioneered the X-ray astronomy, he, unfortunately, died in 1993. The renaming of the satellite happened in 1996. The satellite did a lot of work observing the environment of black holes and neutron stars in X-ray wavelength during its service life.
The last time the satellite relayed a scientific observation was on January 4, 2012. The next day, NASA powered down the satellite. The satellite made a lot of observations that are outstanding contributions to scientific knowledge concerning black holes.
The RXTE satellite also made more observations on the neutron star called magnetar. Magnetar produces magnetic fields that are a thousand times stronger than the ones produced by normal neutron stars.
The satellite also observed that black holes of different masses produce x-ray activities of almost the same kind. The mission revealed several other observations that are still important. The RXTE mission has won five major awards for its contribution to the astronomical wealth of knowledge.
The awards include three Bruno Rossi awards. The mission won these awards in 1999, 2003, 2006, and 2009. The mission also earned the highest Dutch science award in 2004, the Spinoza award.
NASA launched a successor to the RXTE mission in 2017. They named this mission Neutron Star Composition Explorer (NICER). The satellite placed at the skyward side of the International Space Station started studying variable x-ray sources.
NASA expected that the RXTE satellite will burn out and fall to earth after the decommissioning of the satellite in 2012. The agency anticipated that the satellite would fall between 2014 and 2023. It was difficult to predict the exact time the satellite will fall to earth.
Solar activity that affected the earth’s atmosphere was not stable, and this made it difficult to make accurate predictions. At that time, NASA declared that the satellite had the potential of harming one out of thousand people should it crash to earth unexpectedly. The satellite did not hurt anyone when it fell to earth on April 30th.
The data collected by the satellite is available to the general public at NASA Goddard’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center.