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The upcoming SpaceX launch with the apparently first re-use of a dragon capsule will bring with it the NICER array.

NICER is a directional X-ray spectrometer with very precise timing capability. It can be used to identify X-ray pulses from neutron stars and use the timing information to do basic studies on the possibility of deep space X-ray pulsar navigation for absolute position and time determination. There will also be the possibility of testing X-ray communication as well. It's pretty cool!

There is a mission patch on the side. I had always thought mission patches were for missions identified with a particular launch, but the NICER-SEXTANT mission is really a research program if I understand correctly. If so, how common is it for research projects to have mission patches?

The patch looks intriguing. Is there a write-up somewhere or some information about the design of the patch? I see some pulses, what looks like a pulsar, and a lot of writing around the edges.

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above: cropped from larger image below:

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above: Illustration of the NICER array as it would be deployed on the ISS. Credit: NASA. From here.

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above: NICER, from Astrophysics on the International Space Station - Understanding ultra-dense matter through soft X-ray timing.

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above: Illustration of X-rays approaching the NICER array as it would be deployed on the ISS. Credit: NASA. Screen shot of NASA video.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting, those 2 images of the payload mounted on the ISS are not the same. One shows the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer in close proximity, the other does not. They appear to show 2 possible mounting locations, AMS is mounted on the truss. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Magnetic_Spectrometer#/media/… $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jun 1 '17 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Interesting! I wonder if the location was changed after they decided to use it to make an X-ray link using an X-ray transmitter also on the ISS? space.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/x-ray-communication $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jun 1 '17 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @honeste_vivere thanks for that. I know spacecraft are "missions", but this is a piece of experimental equipment, attached to the ISS, not a spacecraft. Another way to look at it; it was cargo, not a payload. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 19 '18 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ @honeste_vivere if you take all of the background information you've just written in comments here, then add just a bit about the NICER logo somehow, that would make a great answer. So far this Q hasn't had much attention. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 19 '18 at 15:00
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There is a mission patch on the side. I had always thought mission patches were for missions identified with a particular launch, but the NICER-SEXTANT mission is really a research program if I understand correctly. If so, how common is it for research projects to have mission patches?

The Wind spacecraft has its own mission patch/logo (logo found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Windlogo.gif) as do the Parker Solar Probe (logo at http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/Multimedia/Images.php) and MMS missions. I think all NASA missions at least have their own logo. Whether they have an actual fabric patch made that can be sewn onto something like a shirt or jacket is another thing, but they definitely have their own logo.

For instance, the FIELDS instrument on Parker Solar Probe has its own logo (I think the other three instrument suites do as well). I know the ISIS instrument (from Egyptian mythology, not the misguided terrorist organization), which is now called IS$\odot$IS, has its own logo (found here https://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/ace/erchome.html). It was named ISIS first and then the terrorist organization came along and ruined the name, so they renamed it to IS$\odot$IS to avoid confusion and bad press (the instrument paper can be found at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11214-014-0059-1).

In general, most missions and instruments have requirements for some fraction of the total budget going to education and public outreach, which often involves generating a logo/design used for visual association with said mission/instrument.

As an aside, when a university gets $5+ million to build something, you can bet the art department will join in ;)

Is there a write-up somewhere or some information about the design of the patch?

I am fairly certain there is but it might not be searchable unless you are part of the organization that designed it. I was recently involved with a mission proposal and we have lots of documents about the logo and the acronym we chose, but these are not searchable things. It would be interesting to see all the brainstorming sessions on mission/instrument names and logo designs.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reminder about the creative aspect to mission patches. I've added the space-art tag. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jan 20 '18 at 4:15

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