Missions to study the Sun
Active missions: Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) - Global Geospace Geoscience (GGS) WIND - Hinode (Sunrise) - PICARD - Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) - Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) - Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) - Solar Monitoring Observatory (SOLAR/SMO)
Launch: August 5, 1997
Orbit: Near L1 Lagrange point
ACE observes energetic solar, interplanetary, interstellar, and galactic particles. Near real-time data from the spacecraft are used by the Space Prediction Weather Center to provide one-hour warnings of approaching geomagnetic storms.
Launch: November 1, 1994
Orbit: Near L1 Lagrange point
GGS WIND measures solar wind and energetic particles emenating from the Sun. It is also creating baseline data for the upcoming Solar Probe+ and Solar Orbiter missions, and supplements data from the STEREO missions.
Launch: September 22, 2006
Orbit: LEO, polar, sun-syncrhonous 98 degrees, 700 km altitude.
Hinode is the Japanese word for sunrise. It is a joint mission between JAXA, NASA and the ESA to study the sun's magnetic cycles.
Launch: June 15, 2010
Orbit: LEO, polar, sun-syncrhonous 98 degrees, 700 km altitude
PICARD takes simultaneous measurements of the Sun's irraadiance, solar flares, magnetic fields and diameter/shape, studying the link between solar cycles and temeperature changes on earth. It is a sponsored by CNES, the French space agency.
Launch: February 5, 2002
Orbit: LEO, 38 degrees, 600 km altitude
RHESSI explores the particle physics behind solar flares. It is a small explorer mission (SMEX) in the original American Explorer line of spacecraft.
Launch: December 2, 1995
Orbit: L1 Lagrange point
SOHO studies the sun from core to outer corona, and has inadvertently discovered over 2,000 comets due to the coronagraph its uses to block out the sun’s direct glare.
Launch: November 2, 2011
Orbit: Geosynchronous, 102 degrees W
SDO records the Sun's dynamic solar activity to understand how it affects life on Earth.
Launch: October 26, 2006
Orbit: Sun-centric, approximately 1 AU
NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft provide stereoscopic views of the sun to better understand coronal mass ejections.
Launch: 7 February 2008
Orbit: LEO 51.6 degrees, 400 kilometers
SOLAR is mounted on the Columbus module of the International Space Station. It measures the irradiance received from the sun, contributing to solar and stellar physics research, as well as improving atmoshperic modeling, atmospheric chemistry and climatology models.
Launch: January 23, 2015 (planned)
The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) will maintain real-time solar wind monitoring capabilites critical to the accuracy and lead time of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s space weather alerts and forecasts.
Launch: Planned for 2015–2016
Aditya, translated as "Sun," will be launched by the Indian Space Agency (ISRO) to study the Sun's coronal mass ejections and magnetic field structures.
Launch: Planned for 2017
Orbit: Sun-centric 25 degrees solar inclination, 0.28 AU
Solar Orbiter is an ESA mission to study how the Sun creates and control its heliosphere. The mission will fly as close as 0.28 AU to capture its measurements.
Launch: Planned for 2018
Orbit: Sun-centric 3.4 degrees solar inclination, 8.5 solar radii (final orbit)
Solar Probe Plus will approach the Sun from a distance of 8.5 solar radii to take direct measurements of the particles and energy emenating from the Sun's corona.
A group of six spacecraft that will study the sun during solar maximum, researching energetic particles, coronal mass ejections and interplanetary shocks in the inner heliosphere. Data will be used to forecast space weather for future human spaceflight missions.
The excitement is building! LightSail is counting down to our test launch, set for May 20—and you’re invited.