Goddard Space Flight Center: Past Missions

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Past Missions

  • artist concept of AEROS B

    Aeros-B  →

    The Aeros-B satellite was built to help scientists study the state and behavior of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

  • artist concept of ATS-1/A


    The Applications Technology Satellites were built to make weather observations, investigate the space environment and test whether TV signals could be sent to ground receivers. The satellites in the series were launched between 1966 and 1974.

  • artist concept of BBXRT in space shuttle bay

    BBXRT  →

    The Broad Band X-ray Telescope was flown on the space shuttle Columbia (STS-35) as part of the ASTRO-1 payload.

  • artist concept of CGRO

    CGRO  →

    The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was the second of NASA's Great Observatories. Compton, at 17 tons, was the heaviest astrophysical payload ever flown at the time of its launch on April 5, 1991, aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Compton was safely deorbited and re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on June 4, 2000.

  • artist concept of CHIPS

    CHIPS  →

    The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer was a NASA-funded, university-class Explorer mission managed in partnership with Berkeley.

  • artist concept of COBE

    COBE  →

    The COBE satellite was developed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center to measure the diffuse infrared and microwave radiation from the early universe to the limits set by our astrophysical environment. It was launched on Nov. 18, 1989. The results of the mission earned Goddard's Dr. John Mather, COBE Project Scientist, a share of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics.

  • artist concept of CONTOUR

    CONTOUR  →

    CONTOUR (COmet Nucleus Tour) was designed to make a detailed study of the interior of at least two comets. Contact with the spacecraft was lost after an Aug. 15, 2002, engine burn that was intended to propel it out of Earth orbit.

  • photograph of Echo

    Echo  →

    Echo was NASA's first communications satellite project. The enormous balloon-like satellites (Echo 1a and 2) reflected signals sent from the ground, but did not transmit any of their own. Their size and low orbits allowed them to be visible to the naked eye. Overall project management was based at Goddard, with NASA's Langley Research Center responsible for payload.

  • artist concept of ERBS

    ERBS  →

    ERBS was part of the NASA's 3 satellite Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE), designed to investigate how energy from the Sun is absorbed and re-emitted by the earth.

  • artist concept of EUVE

    EUVE  →

    The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer's objectives included discovering and studying UV sources and analyzing their radiation's effects. EUVE was launched on June 7, 1992. It operated until Jan. 31, 2001.

  • photo of Explorer 6

    Explorer 6  →

    Explorer 6 was designed to study radiation, geomagnetism and radio propagation in the upper atmosphere. It also tested a scanning device designed for photographing Earth's cloud cover.

  • artist concept of FAST

    FAST  →

    FAST is a satellite designed to study Earth's aurorae. This highly successful spacecraft has helped scientists answer fundamental questions about the causes and makeup of aurorae. FAST's primary objective is to study the microphysics of space plasma and the accelerated particles that cause aurorae.

  • artist concept of FUSE

    FUSE  →

    The Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) is designed to search for hydrogen in the interstellar medium near the sun, in gas clouds in the far reaches of the Milky Way, and in distant intergalactic clouds between galaxies.

  • artist concept of Hete2

    HETE-2  →

    The High Energy Transient Explorer is a small scientific satellite designed to detect and localize gamma-ray bursts.

  • photo of space shuttle payload bay

    Hitchhiker  →

    The Hitchhiker carrier system supported science and technology experiments in the payload bay of the space shuttle.

  • photo of IMAGE

    IMAGE  →

    IMAGE is the first satellite mission dedicated to imaging the Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by the Earth's magnetic field and containing extremely tenuous plasmas of both solar and terrestrial origin.

  • graphic of IUE

    IUE  →

    The International Ultraviolet Explorer mission was the world's longest (18.7 years uninterrupted orbital operations) and most productive astronomical space observatory mission.

  • artist concept of LandSat 2

    Landsat  →

    The first 3 Landsat missions were also known as the Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS) series. Landsat 2 largely carried on the work conducted by Landsat 1; like its predecessor, it far exceeded its design life, sending images until 1982.

  • artist concept of polar

    Polar  →

    The images from Polar confirm the 300-year-old theory that auroras in the northern and southern hemispheres are nearly mirror images. Polar's mission concluded in April 2008 after 12 years in orbit.

  • image of Relay satellite


    NASA planned Relay as a modest low-altitude active satellite project for the early 1960s. Relay 1 and Relay 2 successfully retransmitted television, telephone and digital signals.

  • artist concept of ROSAT

    ROSAT  →

    The ROentgen SATellite, was an X-ray observatory developed through a cooperative program between the Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

  • artist concept of RXTE

    Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE)

    The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) is a satellite that observes the fast-moving, high-energy worlds of black holes, neutron stars, X-ray pulsars and bursts of X-rays that light up the sky and then disappear forever.

  • artist concept of SAMPEX

    SAMPEX  →

    The four SAMPEX instruments are a complementary set of high-resolution, high-sensitivity particle detectors used to conduct studies of various energetic particles.

  • graphical representation of SMS with Earth in the background

    SMS  →

    The Synchronous Meterological Satellite Program was specifically designed to make atmospheric observations. The satellites were launched in the mid-1970s and lasted until the early '80s.

  • photo of SNOE

    SNOE  →

    The Student Nitric Oxide Explorer (SNOE, pronounced "snowy") was a small scientific spacecraft designed, built and operated by the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. It was designed to measure nitric oxide levels in the atmosphere and analyze how the sun affects those levels.

  • photo of Spartan

    Spartan  →

    The Spartan spacecraft were a series of experiments carried by the space shuttle. They addressed a variety of scientific questions, and capitalized on the shuttle's ability to accommodate long duration experiments that are large or heavy, or that require retrieval or other on-orbit operations.

  • artist concept of ST5 probes

    ST5  →

    Scientists used the three ST5 satellites to test operating a group of spacecraft in a single system. The miniaturized satellites, each about the size of a television, completed their 90-day mission in 2006.

  • artist concept of SWAS

    SWAS  →

    Launched into low Earth orbit in December 1998, the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite was a two-year NASA mission to enhance understanding of star formation.

  • artist concept of TIROS

    TIROS  →

    The Television Infrared Observation Satellite Program was NASA's first experimental step to determine if satellites could be useful in the study of Earth.

  • artist concept of TOMS EP

    TOMS-EP  →

    The Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, launched in July 1996 aboard an Earth Probe Satellite (TOMS-EP), continues NASA's long-term daily mapping of the global distribution of Earth's atmospheric ozone.

  • artist concept of UARS

    UARS  →

    The UARS satellite has allowed scientists to gain a better understanding of the energy input, chemistry and dynamics of the upper atmosphere, as well as the coupling between the upper and lower atmospheres.

  • photo of Vanguard satellite

    Vanguard  →

    The Vanguard mission was designed to test the launch capabilities of a three-stage rocket and study the effects of the environment on a satellite in Earth orbit. The Navy-led program had a series of high-profile mishaps, but ultimately put up Vanguard 1 in March 1958. It was the second U.S. satellite in orbit, following Explorer 1 by a month.

  • photo of WIRE

    WIRE  →

    The Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) was a small satellite carrying a cryogenically cooled infrared telescope designed to study starburst galaxies, vast clouds of molecular gas cradling the sites of newborn stars.

Page Last Updated: June 26th, 2014
Page Editor: Rob Garner