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Payload, X-Ray Telescope, Aerobee


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Rockets and Missiles exhibition at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Collection Item Summary:

This is a payload representative of those flown on Aerobees in the mid-1960s by the American Science and Engineering (AS&E) team led by Riccardo Giacconi. The payload includes developmental and backup detectors and was assembled as a display object by AS&E in the mid-1960s to depict the flight instrument flown in June 1962 aboard an Air Force Aerobee 150 sounding rocket.

The payload in the collection includes several special Geiger counters to measure soft x-rays. These are surrounded by scintillation counters, which responded to more energetic x-rays. This object was presented to the Museum on the occasion of a press conference at the National Press Club honoring Giacconi's Nobel Prize. At that ceremony, Giacconi remarked that this was not the flight payload, because the original had been severely damaged after flight.

Collection Item Long Description:

Office of News and Information

Johns Hopkins University

3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100

Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843

Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

October 8, 2002


CONTACT: Michael Purdy

(410) 516-7906

Physics Nobel Prize Winner

Holds Hopkins Research Position

Photo by Steve Barrett

Riccardo Giacconi (pictured at right), announced today as a co-recipient of this year's Nobel Prize in physics, is a research professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University.

From 1982 to 1997, Giacconi was a Johns Hopkins professor of physics and astronomy. In 1998, he became a Hopkins research professor to continue his personal program of X-ray astronomy research while serving in the latest of a series of positions as lead administrator of groups that build and operate large astronomical observatories.

Currently president of Associated Universities, Incorporated, the corporation that co-administers the National Radio Astronomy Observatory with the National Science Foundation, Giacconi previously served from 1981 to 1993 as director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the NASA center that operates and administers the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope from a facility on Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus.

Giacconi will share this year's Nobel with Raymond Davis Jr., research professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania and research collaborator in chemistry at the Brookhaven Lab in Upton, N.Y., and with Masatoshi Koshiba of the University of Tokyo.

Holland Ford, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins, came to the Space Telescope Science Institute in 1981 at the start of Giacconi's term as director there.

"Riccardo is one of the most remarkable scientists that I have ever known in his focus and his clear perception of what the important problems are," said Ford. "He has alway impressed me and anyone else in the room with us with his ability to cut through the smoke and mirrors to see what the essential objective should be."

The Nobel Prize committee selected Giacconi for his pioneering work in X-ray astronomy.

"Riccardo's achievements in X-ray astronomy provided us with an astounding, marvelous new view of the universe," said Richard Henry, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins.

Giacconi currently collaborates with Colin Norman, a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins.

"We're delighted that Riccardo's pioneering work has been recognized by the Nobel committee, and we look forward to continuing our long and productive relationship with him," said Jonathan Bagger, physics and astronomy professor and department chair at Johns Hopkins.

After his tenure as director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Giacconi served for several years as director general of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), a European astronomical consortium that built and operates several large observatories in Chile.

Warren Moos, professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins, praised the observatories built during Giacconi's tenure at ESO and the new facilities currently in development under his leadership at AUI.

"In my mind, Riccardo is a major figure who's had an enormous impact on the ability of astronomers to pursue their research," said Moos. "I can't underscore enough the tremendous effect that he's had on the facilities that we have."

"He's a natural leader," says Timothy Heckman, professor of physics and astronomy at Hopkins. "He's the sort of person that you think could've been, say, president of General Motors -- if he hadn't been drawn into astrophysics."


Johns Hopkins University news releases can be found on the World Wide Web at

Information on automatic e-mail delivery of science and medical news releases is available at the same address.

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Credit Line

Gift of American Science & Engineering Incorporated.


  • Assorted metals
  • Electronics


3-D: 86.4 x 36.8cm (34 x 14 1/2 in.)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Inventory Number