NuSTAR, the Latest Space Telescope, Launched — PICTURES

June 14, 2012, 6:07 a.m.

For people who re­mem­ber the X-15 re­search pro­gram from the early 1960s, the launch of a space tele­scope on Wed­nes­day might have been a bit of deja vu.

Through the X-15 pro­gram, NASA, along with the Air Force, the Navy, and North Amer­ic­an Avi­ation con­duc­ted re­search on hy­per­son­ic pi­loted flight, set­ting an un­of­fi­cial speed re­cord (4,520 mph) and alti­tude re­cord (354,200 feet), ac­cord­ing to the NASA web­site. But be­cause the fuel re­quired to reach such speeds and heights was so great, the space agency saved fuel by launch­ing the air­craft from the wings of B-52s fly­ing at 45,000 feet and trav­el­ing at 500 mph.

Like the X-15 air­craft, the Nuc­le­ar Spec­tro­scop­ic Tele­scope Ar­ray, or NuSTAR, was launched off the wing of an air­plane, in this case an L-1011. And like the X-15, it was launched from a plane in a Pe­gas­us XL rock­et to save fuel costs com­pared with the costs of launch­ing a rock­et from the ground, ac­cord­ing to NASA. 

Once op­er­a­tion­al in or­bit, the tele­scope “will spend at least two-years ob­serving high-en­ergy X-rays more closely, in high­er res­ol­u­tion, than any space tele­scope be­fore it,” NASA said. The X-rays in­clude those emit­ted by black holes.

Be­low are pho­tos and a video from the NuSTAR launch, along with a NASA X-15 video from the early 1960s.