Launch Sequence of Astronomical Satellites
There's also a more descriptive page
Additions, corrections, and comments are welcome,
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Our image shows ESA's astrometrical satellite
(some of these are in early projection phase only)
- 1962 April 26
- Ariel 1 (UK)
investigated Solar UV and X-radiation, and obtained an energy spectrum of
primary cosmic rays.
- 1964 March 27
- Ariel 2 (UK)
- 1966 April 8 (Atlas-Agena D)
- Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) 1 (Nasa).
Active for 3 days.
- 1967 May 5
- Ariel 3 (UK)
- 1968 July 4
- Explorer 38 (RAE-1) (Nasa).
Radio Astronomy Explorer. Deployed four 230-m antennae, discovered Earth's
- 1968 December 7 (Atlas-Centaur)
- OAO 2 (Nasa).
11 UV telescopes, discovered a supernova (May 1972)
- 1970 November 30 (Atlas-Centaur)
- OAO-B (Nasa).
Launch failure (fell into Atlantic).
- 1970 December 12
(Scout-B, from Italy's San Marco maritim platform near Kenia's coast)
- Explorer 42 (SAS-1, SAS-A, Uhuru) (Nasa)
First X-ray satellite observatory.
Uhuru page at HEASARC (GSFC, Nasa)
- 1971 December 11
- Ariel 4 (UK)
- 1972 March 12
- TD-1A (ESA).
Thor Delta satellite 1A. UV, X-ray and Gamma-ray instruments.
TD-1A page (HEASARC)
- 1972 August 21 (Atlas-Centaur)
- OAO 3(=OAO-C, Copernicus) (Nasa).
80-cm UV telescope, then the heaviest scientific US payload (2220 kg).
OAO-3 (Copernicus) page (HEASARC)
- 1972 November 15 (Scout-B, from San Marco)
- Explorer 48 (SAS-2, SAS-B) (Nasa).
Gamma-ray spark-chamber telescope.
SAS 2 page (HEASARC)
- 1973 June 10 (Thor-Agena Delta)
- Explorer 49 (RAE-2) (Nasa)
Radio Astronomy Explorer. Lunar orbit.
- 1974 August 30
- ANS-1 (Netherlands)
UV, X-ray astronomy
ANS page (HEASARC)
- 1974 October 15
- Ariel 5 (UK)
Ariel 5 page (HEASARC)
- 1975 April 19
- Aryabhata (India):
Indian Scientific Satellite.
Measured X-rays from Milky Way and extragalactic regions, besides
Solar and ionosphere observations
Aryabhata homepage (HEASARC)
- 1975 May 5
- Explorer 53 (SAS-3, SAS-C) (Nasa).
SAS 3 page (HEASARC)
- 1975 August 9
- COS-B (ESA)
COS-B page (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa)
- 1977 August 12 (Atlas-Centaur)
- High Energy Astronomical Observatory (HEAO) 1 (Nasa)
X-ray, Gamma-ray telescopes.
HEAO-1 page (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa)
- 1978 January 26 (Thor-Delta)
- International Ultraviolett Explorer (IUE) (ESA, Nasa, UK)
45-cm UV telescope
Working for over 18 years; shut down and destroyed from healthy state
on September 30, 1996, 18:42 UT, because of funding reasons.
IUE homepage (GSFC/Nasa),
IUE homepage (ESA),
Images from IUE (STScI)
- 1978 November 13
- HEAO 2 (Einstein) (Nasa)
HEAO-2 (Einstein) page (HEASARC)
- 1979 February 21
- Hakucho (Japan)
Known as CORSA-b before launch on ; X-ray satellite.
Hakucho homepage (HEASARC)
- 1979 February 24
- P78-1 (Nasa)
Shot down in USAF anti-satellite weapons test on September 13, 1985.
P78-1 homepage (HEASARC)
- 1979 June 2
- Ariel 6 (UK)
Ariel 6 page (HEASARC)
- 1979 June 7 (Intercosmos)
- Bhaskara-I (India)
Primarily an Earth observing satellite, it also carried an All-Sky
monitor similar to Ariel-V.
Bhaskara 1 info (Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and ISRO)
- 1979 September 20
- HEAO 3 (Nasa)
HEAO-3 page (HEASARC)
- 1981 February 20
- Tenma (Japan).
Known as Astro B prior to launch; X-ray satellite.
Tenma homepage (HEASARC)
- 1983 January 26 (Delta 3910)
- IRAS, Infra Red Astronomical Satellite (Nasa, Netherlands).
- 1983 March 23 (Proton D-1-e)
- Astron-1 (USSR)
Astrophysical satellite with an 80-cm UV telescope.
Astron page (HEASARC)
- 1983 May 26 (Delta 3914)
- Exosat (European X-ray Observatory Satellite, ESA).
Exosat data center at ESTEC;
Exosat homepage at HEASARC (GSFC/Nasa)
- 1987 February 5
- Ginga (Japan);
known as Astro-C prior to launch. X-ray satellite.
Ginga homepage (ISAS),
Ginga homepage (HEASARC)
- 1989 August 8 (Ariane 44 LP)
Astrometric satellite. Although launched successfully, the spacecraft didn't
achieve its desied high orbit. Nevertheless, it was highly successful and
measured 118,000 star positions at 0.001 arc seconds acuracy, plus over
1 million positions at 0.025 arc seconds.
Hipparcos homepage (ESTEC, NL; Esa)
- 1989 November 11 (Delta)
- COsmic Background Explorer (COBE)
Cobe Project homepage
- 1989 December 1 (D-1-e Proton)
- Granat (USSR); Gamma ray observatory satellite.
Granat homepage (HEASARC)
- 1990 April 5 (Space Shuttle STS-37, Atlantis F-8)
- Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO)
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory homepage,
- 1990 April 24 (Space Shuttle STS-31)
- Hubble Space Telescope (HST) (Nasa, ESA). Launched with improperly
designed optics. Refurbished December 1993, STS-61. Further service missions
were flown in February 1997 (SM-2, STS-82), December 1999 (SM-3A, STS-103),
and in March 2001 (SM-3B, STS-109), a final service mission is currently
scheduled for April 2008 (SM-4, STS-125).
Hubble Project Homepage (GSFC/Nasa)
Hubble Space Telescope homepage (STScI);
HST image archive at SEDS
- 1990 June 1 (Delta II)
- Rosat (Roentgen Satellite)
Rosat homepage at the MPE Garching;
Rosat Homepage (HEASARC)
- 1990 July 11 (SL-4 Soyuz)
- Gamma (USSR); Gamma ray astronomy.
Gamma homepage (HEASARC)
- 1990 December 2 (STS-35, STS Columbia)
- Astro-1 Space Shuttle mission, landed December 11, 1990.
Carried several telescopes: UIT, BBXRT.
BBXRT homepage (HEASARC)
- 1991 July 17 (Ariane 40)
(French Highschool of Engeneers in Electrotechnics and Electronics, ESIEE).
- 1992 June 2 (Delta II)
- Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE)
EUVE CEA homepage;
EUVE homepage (HEASARC)
- 1992 July 31 (STS Atlantis)
- Eureca (ESA)
European Retrievable Carrier (reusable satellite). Carried Watch, the
Wide-Angle Telescope for Cosmic Hard X-rays (of 6-150 keV energy). Retrieved
STS Endeavour on July 1, 1993.
Eureca homepage (HEASARC)
- 1993 February 20 (Mu-3 S2)
- ASCA, Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics, Asuka
(formerly Astro-D, Japan). X-ray telescopes.
ASCA page (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa)
- 1993 April 25 (Pegasus)
- Alexis (DoE, USA).
Array of Low Energy X-ray Imaging Sensors. Built and controlled from LANL.
Alexis homepage (LANL)
- 1994 November 1
Carried TGRS (Transient Gamma Ray Spectrometer).
GGS-WIND homepage (HEASARC)
- 1995 March 18 (H-II)
- IRTS/SFU (Japan).
Infrared Telescope Satellite/Space Flyer Unit.
- 1995 November 4
Student-built radio astronomical satellite
- 1995 November 17 (Ariane 44P)
- ISO, Infrared Space Observatory (ESA).
ISO homepage (ESTEC);
ISO homepage at IPAC/Caltech
- 1995 December (Delta II)
- Rossi X-rays Timing Explorer.
- 1996 April 24 (Delta II)
- MSX (US Navy): Midcourse Space Experiment.
Carried IR instruments sensitive for radiation of 4.2 to 26 microns
MSX homepage (Navy Research Lab);
MSX Celestial Background page;
MSX Celestial Background team
- 1996 April 30 (Atlas-Centaur)
- SAX, Italian X-ray sat.
SAX homepage (ASI),
- 1997 February 12
- HALCA, VSOP, Muses-B (Japan):
Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy,
VLBI Space Observatory Program.
Radioastronomical satellite, carrying an 8-meter antenna to allow VLBI.
Muses-B project info page at ISAS;
- 1997 April 21
- Minisat 1 (Spain)
carries the Low Energy Gamma-Ray Imager (LEGRI).
LEGRI homepage (GSFC),
Legri homepage (Univ. Valencia)
- 1998 December 5 (Pegasus XL/L-1011)
- SWAS, Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite.
Investigates water, molecular oxygen, CO, and atomic C emissions
from interstellar clouds.
Small Explorer (SMEX) Program.
SWAS homepage (GSFC)
- 1999 February 23 (Delta)
- ARGOS (Advanced Research and Global Observations Satellite).
Unconventional Stellar Aspect (USA) experiment.
- 1999 March 4 1999 (Pegasus)
- WIRE (Wide Field Infrared Explorer).
Small Explorer (SMEX) Program.
This small satellite failed shortly after a flawless launch because of
electronic failure destroying its cooling system. Some optical astronomy
was still possible with the 5-cm guiding telescope.
Wire page at GSFC (within the SMEX program),
WIRE page at Cornell U.
- 1999 April 28 (Cosmos-3M)
- ABRIXAS ("A Broad-Band Imaging All-Sky Survey", Germany)
X-ray satellite. Failed during second day in orbit because of power supply
ABRIXAS homepage (MPE)
- 1999 June 24 (Delta)
- FUSE (Nasa):
Far UV Spectroscopic Explorer.
- 1999 July 23 (Space Shuttle STS-93)
- Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) (Nasa).
Developed as Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF).
AXAF info from Harvard;
Chandra XRO homepage (HEASARC);
Chandra Homepage (Nasa);
Chandra X-Ray Observatory Center
- 1999 December 10 (Ariane 5)
- XMM Newton (ESA):
High Throughput X-ray Spectroscopy mission.
XMM homepage (ESA);
XMM Newton Science Operations Center
(ESA Villafranca, Spain)
- 2000 February 10
- Astro-E (Japan).
Complex X-ray observatory.
Lost during launch attempt. Succeeded by Astro-E2 (see below).
Astro E page (HEASARC)
- 2000 October 9 (Pegasus)
- HETE-2: High Energy Transient Explorer.
To detect GRBs and observe in X-ray and Gamma ray radiation.
HETE-2 Homepage (HEASARC)
- 2001 June 30 (Delta II 7425-10)
Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
- 2002 October 17
- Integral (ESA, Russia, Nasa):
International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory.
X- and Gamma ray observatory (15 keV to 10 MeV at a resolution of 12 arc minutes).
Integral homepage (ESA)
- 2003 January 12
- CHIPSat (GSFC/Nasa/U Berkeley):
Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer.
Carries out all-sky spectroscopy of the diffuse background at wavelengths
from 90 to 260 Angstrom.
CHIPSat homepage (U Berkeley)
- 2003 April 28 (Pegasus XL)
- GALEX (JPL/Nasa): Galaxy Evolution Explorer.
UV imaging and spectroscopic survey mission.
GALEX homepage (Caltech),
GALEX page (JPL)
- 2003 June 30
- MOST (Canada): Microvariability and Oscillations of STars.
Successfully launched from Plesetsk, Russia into a 820-km orbit.
Carries a small (15-cm aperture) telescope, to look for tiny light variations
at stars in order to detect e.g. small-amplitude star oscillations or
occultations by planets.
MOST homepage (Univ. British Columbia)
- 2003 August 25 (Delta 7920H)
- Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) (JPL/Nasa):
Developed as Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF).
Large IR telescope in a sophistivated Solar orbit.
SIRTF homepage (JPL)
- 2004 November 20 (Delta II 7320)
- Swift (GSFC/Nasa).
Multi-wavelength mission to study Gamma-Ray Bursts in X-ray and UV/optical.
Swift homepage (GSFC)
- 2005 July 10 (M-V-6)
- Suzaku, Astro-E2 (Japan):
X-ray astronomy for 0.4-700 keV radiation.
Backup for lost Astro-E.
Astro E2 homepage (ISAS);
Astro-E2 page (HEASARC)
- 2006 February 26 (M-V)
- Akari, Astro-F, IRIS (Japan): Infrared Imaging Surveyor.
- December 27, 2006 (Soyuz-Fregat)
- CoRoT (ESA):
Mission for photometric detection of rocky planets around nearby stars.
- 2007 April 23 (PSLV-C8)
- Agile (ASI, Italy).
AGILE - Astro-rivelatore Gamma a Immagini LEggero.
Successfully launched with a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) of the
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from Sriharikota, India.
Gamma-ray astronomy satellite, measuring photons of energy above 100 MeV.
Agile Homepage (INAF)
- 2008 June 11 (Delta 2)
- Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, GLAST (GSFC/Nasa):
Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope.
Successfully launched from KSC Pad 17-B.
Renamed Fermi on August 26, 2008 after first successful operations.
Studies the universe in photon enrgy range of 8 keV to 300 GeV, in
particular Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs).
- 2009 March 6 (Delta 2)
- Kepler (Nasa):
Space-based search for extrasolar planets.
- 2009 May 14 (Ariane 5, together with Planck)
- Herschel, FIRST (Esa):
Far IR and Submillimeter Space Telescope (85 to 900 microns).
Herschel homepage (ESA)
- 2009 May 14 (Ariane 5, together with Herschel)
- Planck, former COBRAS/SAMBA (ESA):
Cosmic Background Radiation Anisotropy Satellite/Satellite for Measurement
of Background Anisotropy.
Planck homepage (ESA)
- 2009 December 14 (Delta 2)
- WISE (Nasa): Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.
WISE homepage (Berkeley)
- 2010 April 15 (GSLV)
- HealthSat, GSAT-4 (Israel/India):
Failed to achieve Earth orbit.
Was to carry the UV telescope TAUVEX (Tel Aviv University Ultraviolet
Explorer), originally scheduled as Israeli part of SXG.
(Indian Institute of Astrophysics)
- 2011 July 18 (Zenit 2-Fregat-SB)
- RadioAstron, Spektr R (Russia):
Radio astronomy satellite: 10m radio telescope.
Successfully launched into a highly elliptical orbit.
RadioAstron Project Web Site (RSSI)
- 2012 June 13 (OSC Pegasus)
- NuSTAR (Nasa): Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array.
High energy X-ray observations.
NuSTAR homepage (Caltech)
- 2013 Dec 19 (Soyuz-Fregat)
- GAIA (ESA):
Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics. Astrometrical satellite,
intended to improve the accuracy and extend the Hipparcos survey. To operate
near Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2.
GAIA homepage (ESA)
- 2014 (PSLV)
- Astrosat 1 (India):
UV and X-ray observations.
For surveys and simultaneous observations at different wavelengths,
spectroscopy and variability studies.
Astrosat Homepage (ISRO)
- 2015 (Vega)
- LISA Pathfinder (ESA):
To be placed into a Halo orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrange point L1.
Testing concepts for gravitational wave detection to prepare LISA mission.
LISA Pathfinder homepage (ESA)
- 2015 (Soyuz-Fregat)
- Spektr-RG, SRG, SXG (Nasa/Russia):
- 2018 (Ariane V)
- JWST, NGST:
James Webb Space Telescope, New Generation Space Telescope.
JWST homepage (GSFC, Nasa);
JWST homepage (Nasa)
- SAFIR (JPL/Nasa):
Single Aperture Far-Infrared Observatory, JPL/Nasa.
Primary mirror of 5-10 meters diameter, cryogenic system.
SAFIR home (JPL)
- 2018 (Delta IV)
- LISA: Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.
Three identical spacecraft. L-class mission.
LISA homepage (NASA);
LISA homepage (ESA)
- 2018 (Ariane V)
- XEUS (ESA):
X-ray Evolving Universe Spectroscopy mission.
To be launched by Ariane V in 2015, into an orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrange
XEUS mission page (ESA)
- After 2020 (Delta-3)
- SIM Lite: Space Interferometer Mission.
SIM homepage (JPL/Nasa)
- Euclid (ESA)
Mapping the geometry of the dark universe; remote galaxies and clusters.
5-year mission, Halo orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrange point, L2.
Euclid home (ESA)
- PLATO, PLAnetary Transit and Oscillations of stars (ESA).
6-year mission, large amplitude libration orbit around Sun-Earth
Lagrangian point, L2. M-class mission.
Plato home (ESA)
- IXO, International X-ray Observatory,
former Constellation X (GSFC/Nasa):
Large X-ray orbital observatory with an array of X-ray telescopes.
Constellation X homepage
- Dark Energy Space Telescope (Nasa)
.. the following part in process to be updated ..
- NET 2012 (Taurus)
- DUO, Dark Universe Observatory (Nasa, Germany)
X-ray survey. In essence, a reflight of ABRIXAS.
DUO page (Nasa),
DUO homepage (Sonoma State Univ)
- 2006 (Delta 7325)
- StarLight, former Space Technology 3.
First stellar interferometer of 2 spacecraft.
High Resolution Spectroscopic Imager.
- MAXIM Pathfinder (U Colorado, GSFC/Nasa):
Micro-Arcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission Pathfinder.
MAXIM Pathfinder Homepage
- Spectrum UV: Spectroscopic UV satellite.
Spectrum UV homepage (AI Potsdam)
- > 2015
- ExNPS: Exploration of Nearby Planetary Systems.
ExNPS techinfo (JPL, Nasa)
- > 2015
Radio astronomy/VLBI satellite project proposition.
- > 2015 (under study)
- MAXIM (Nasa):
Micro-Arcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission.
High resolution x-ray survey telescope satellite.
- > 2015 (under study)
- Generation-X (Nasa):
Ultra-large aperture X-ray telescope.
Generation X homepage
- > 2015 (under study)
- Lobster-ISS (ESA):
An Imaging All-Sky X-Ray monitor for the International Space Station (ISS).
(Univ. of Leicester, UK);
Lobster-ISS homepage (ESA)
- VSOP-2 (Japan).
- 2012-15 (Ariane 5)
- TPF (Nasa): Terrestrial Planet Finder.
Search for terrestrial planets at nearby stars.
TPF homepage (Planetquest)
- 2015 (Ariane V)
- Darwin (ESA)
Space Infrared Interferometer: Space-based search for extrasolar planets.
- EXIST (GSFC/Nasa, Caltech):
Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope.
Hard X-ray (5-600 keV) imaging telescope satellite.