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Missions to study the Sun

Active missions: Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)Global Geospace Geoscience (GGS) WINDHinode (Sunrise)PICARDReuven 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)

Future missions: Aditya-1 - Solar Probe Plus - Solar Orbiter - Solar Sentinels

Active Missions

Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)
Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)

Launch: 5 August 1997. Orbit: Near L1 Lagrange point.

Links: NASA - Caltech - Wikipedia

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.

Global Geospace Geoscience (GGS) WIND
Global Geospace Geoscience (GGS) WIND

Launch: 1 November 1994. Orbit: Near L1 Lagrange point.

Links: NASA - GSFC - Wikipedia

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.

Hinode (Sunrise)
Hinode (Sunrise)

Launch: 22 September 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.

PICARD spacecraft

Launch: 15 June 2010. Orbit: LEO, polar, sun-syncrhonous 98 degrees, 700 km altitude.

Links: CNES - CNES - Wikipedia

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.

Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI)
Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI)

Launch: 5 February 2002. Orbit: LEO, 38 degrees, 600 km altitude.

Links: GSFC - Wikipedia

RHESSI explores the particle physics behind solar flares. It is a small explorer mission (SMEX) in the original American Explorer line of spacecraft.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)

Launch: 2 December 1995. Orbit: L1 Lagrange point.

Links: NASA - ESA - Wikipedia

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.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Launch: 2 November 2011. Orbit: Geosynchronous, 102 degrees W.

Links: NASA - Wikipedia

SDO records the Sun's dynamic solar activity to understand how it affects life on Earth.

Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO)
Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO)

Launch: 26 October 2006. Orbit: Sun-centric, approximately 1 AU.

Links: NASA - JPL/APUWikipedia

NASA’s twin STEREO spacecraft provide stereoscopic views of the sun to better understand coronal mass ejections.

Solar Monitoring Observatory (SOLAR/SMO)

Solar Monitoring Observatory (SOLAR/SMO)

Launch: 7 February 2008. Orbit: LEO 51.6 degrees, 400 kilometers.

Links: NASA

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.

Future Missions


Launch: Planned for 2015-2016.

Links: ISRO - Wikipedia

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.

Solar Orbiter

Launch: Planned for 2017. Orbit: Sun-centric 25 degrees solar inclination, 0.28 AU

Links: ESA - Wikipedia

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.

Solar Probe Plus

Launch: Planned for 2018. Orbit: Sun-centric 3.4 degrees solar inclination, 8.5 solar radii (final orbit)

Links: GSFC - JHU - Wikipedia

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.

Solar Sentinels

Links: NASA - Wikiepdia

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.

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