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A view of the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) X-ray Timing Instrument without its protective blanketing shows a collection of 56 close-packed sunshades—the white and black cylinders in the foreground—that protect the X-ray optics, as well as some of the 56 X-ray detector enclosures, on the gold-colored plate, onto which X-rays from the sky are focused.
NICER, an upcoming NASA astrophysics mission, will uncover the physics governing the ultra-dense interiors of neutron stars. Using the same platform, the mission will demonstrate trailblazing space navigation technology.
The NICER mission arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on June 8, 2016. Currently scheduled for launch to the International Space Station in February 2017 aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, NICER will deploy as an external attached payload on the ISS ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 2. Its 56 X-ray optics and silicon detectors will observe and gather data about the interior composition of neutron stars and their pulsating cohort, pulsars.