Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer

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The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) was launched on December 30, 1995 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The mission is managed and controlled by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland. RXTE features unprecedented time resolution in combination with moderate spectral resolution to explore the variability of X-ray sources. Time scales from microseconds to months are covered in an instantaneous spectral range from 2 to 250 keV. Originally designed for a required lifetime of two years with a goal of five, RXTE has passed that goal and is still performing well.

The spacecraft was designed and built by the Engineering Directorate at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The launch vehicle was a Delta II rocket that put RXTE into its intended low-earth circular orbit at an altitude of 580 km, corresponding to an orbital period of about 90 minutes, with an inclination of 23 degrees.

Operations are managed at Goddard Space Flight Center. The scientific planning and data processing take place at the RXTE Science Operations Center (SOC) comprising the:

  • Science Operations Facility (SOF), which runs the satellite observatory.
  • Guest Observer Facility (GOF) which provides scientific services to astronomers who use RXTE.

In the beginning XSDC processed RXTE Data and distributed via Tape, however the RXTE GOF and SOF now work together to perform the distribution and archiving of RXTE data.

The Project Scientist for RXTE is Dr. Jean H. Swank.


The mission carries two pointed instruments, the Proportional Counter Array (PCA) developed by GSFC to cover the lower part of the energy range, and the High Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE) developed by UCSD covering the upper energy range. These instruments are equipped with collimators yielding a FWHM of one degree. In addition, RXTE carries an All-Sky Monitor (ASM) from MIT that scans about 80% of the sky every orbit, allowing monitoring at time scales of 90 minutes or longer. Data from PCA and ASM are processed on board by the Experiment Data System (EDS), also built by MIT.

Download the Data

Lighter version of the Data

A lighter version of the data (for proposals and such) was supplied by MIT at:

For more information on the lighter version visit: MIT X-Ray Timing Explorer Project