Missions Supporting the Study of the Sun-Earth Connection: Heliophysics

Science Mission Directorate

Graphic representing the various Heliophysics disciplines; Sun, Earth, Space Weather, Near-Earth Space and the Magnetosphere. Understanding the Sun, Heliosphere, and Planetary Environments as a single connected system is a goal of the Heliophysics Research Program.
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Operating Missions

Artist rendering of ACE spacecraft

ACE - Advanced Composition Explorer  →

ACE's mission observes particles of solar, interplanetary, interstellar, and galactic origins, spanning the energy range from solar wind ions to galactic cosmic ray nuclei.

Artist rendering of AIM spacecraft

AIM - Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere

Fifty miles above the ground, Earth's highest clouds form an icy membrane at the edge of the atmosphere. AIM's mission is to study these mysterious Polar Mesospheric Clouds.

An artist's concept of the two ARTEMIS spacecraft in orbit around the Moon.

ARTEMIS - Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun (part of the THEMIS mission)

The ARTEMIS mission is to study how the solar wind electrifies, alters and erodes the moon's surface. ARTEMIS is using two in-orbit spacecraft from the completed THEMIS magnetosphere mission.

Artist rendering of CINDI spacecraft

CINDI - Coupled Ion-Neutral Dynamics Investigations

CINDI's mission is to understand the dynamics of the Earth's ionosphere.

Artist rendering of Cluster spacecraft

Cluster  →

The Cluster mission is an in-situ investigation of the Earth's magnetosphere using four identical spacecraft simultaneously.

Artist rendering of Geotail spacecraft

Geotail  →

The Geotail mission's primary objective is to study the dynamics of the Earth's magnetotail over a wide range of distance, extending from the near-Earth region to the distant tail.

Artist's conception of Hinode satellite

Hinode (Solar-B)

Hinode is exploring the magnetic fields of the Sun and is improving our understanding of the mechanisms that power the solar atmosphere and drive solar eruptions.

Artist rendition of IBEX spacecraft

IBEX - Interstellar Boundary Explorer

IBEX is the first mission designed to detect the edge of the Solar System.

Artist's concept of the IRIS satellite in orbit.

IRIS - Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) mission opens a window of discovery into the sun's upper layers by tracing the flow of energy and plasma through the chromosphere and transition region into the corona using spectrometry and imaging.

Artist conception of one of the four MMS spacecraft investigating magnetic reconnection within Earth's magnetic field (magnetosphere)

MMS - Magnetospheric Multiscale (Launch Mar. 2015)

The MMS mission studies the mystery of how magnetic fields around Earth connect and disconnect, explosively releasing energy via a process known a magnetic reconnection.

Artist's conception of RHESSI satellite

RHESSI - Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscope Imager  →

RHESSI's mission is to explore the basic physics of particle acceleration and energy release in solar flares.

Artist rendition of SDO spacecraft

SDO - Solar Dynamics Observatory

Solar Dynamics Observatory's (SDO) mission is to understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by observing the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.

Artist rendition of SoHO spacecraft

SoHO - Solar and Heliospheric Observatory

SoHO's mission is to study the Sun, from its deep core to the outer corona, and the solar wind.

Artist's conception of STEREO satellite

STEREO - Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory

The STEREO mission employs two nearly identical space-based observatories - one ahead of Earth in its orbit, the other trailing behind - to provide the first-ever stereoscopic measurements to study the Sun and the nature of its coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

Artist rendering of THEMIS spacecraft

THEMIS - Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms

THEMIS answers longstanding fundamental questions concerning the nature of the substorm instabilities that abruptly and explosively release solar wind energy stored within the Earth’s magnetotail.

Artist's concept of TIMED spacecraft

TIMED - Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics  →

 explores the Earth's Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere (60-180 kilometers up), the least explored and understood region of our atmosphere.

Photo of the TWINS spacecraft.

TWINS - Two Wide-angle Imaging Neutral-atom Spectrometers  →

The identical TWINS-A and TWINS-B observatories provide a new capability for stereoscopically imaging the magnetosphere.

Artist rendition of RBSP spacecraft.

The Van Allen Probes

This mission (formerly known as Radiation Belt Storm Probes(RBSP)) was designed to help us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the Earth’s radiation belts on various scales of space and time.

Artist rendering of Voyager spacecraft


The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were re-designated in 1990 as the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), to observe the edge of the solar system and interstellar space.

Artist rendering of Wind spacecraft

Wind  →

Wind's mission is to measure crucial properties of the solar wind before it impacts the Earth's magnetic field and alters the Earth's space environment and upper atmosphere in a direct manner.

Sounding Rocket Missions

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2012 Earth-Orbiting Heliophysics Fleet

About the Missions Fleet

This image shows the Heliophysics System Observatory (HSO), a fleet of satellites performing heliophysics science investigations.› View larger
The Heliophysics flight missions form a fleet of solar, heliospheric, geospace, and planetary spacecraft that operate simultaneously to understand the dynamics of the solar system. This fleet can be thought of as a single observatory, the Heliophysics System Observatory (HSO). Experience has demonstrated that combinations of these missions enable larger scale investigations. This distributed observatory has flexibility and capabilities that evolve with each new mission launched. Knowledge, data, and new interpretive models facilitate the path toward new scientific understanding.


Spacecraft Image Gallery

Artist rendition of SDO spacecraft Spacecraft Image Gallery
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Missions In Development - Under Study

Page Last Updated: February 5th, 2015
Page Editor: Holly Zell