Orbital Telescopes

Since the early years of spaceflight, the advantages of astronomical observing above the Earth's atmosphere were recognized, and led to the introduction of astronomical instruments on spacecraft, i.e., astronomical observatories in space (in most cases, in Earth's orbit). Please note that this list is not complete in specific Solar research satellites, and does not include planetary probes.

  • Astronomical Satellites Launch Sequence
  • Additions, corrections, and comments are welcome, please contact me !

    Our image shows Nasa's High Energy Astronomical Observatory (HEAO) 2 satellite, which was also named Einstein

    Ariel 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 (UK)
    The honor of the first astronomical satellite project goes to Great Britain. Ariel 1, launched April 26, 1962, investigated Solar UV and X-radiation, and obtained an energy spectrum of primary cosmic rays. Ariel 2, 3, and 4, launched March 27, 1964 (2), May 5, 1967 (3), and December 11, 1971, respectively, investigated astronomical objects in the radio range. Ariel 5 (launched October 15, 1974) and Ariel 6 (l. June 2, 1979) were devoted to X-ray astronomy.
    Images: Ariel 5, Ariel 6
    Pages at HEASARC: Ariel 5, Ariel 6
    Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) 1, 2, B, 3(=C, Copernicus) (Nasa)
    Early US astronomical satellites. OAO-1 was successfully launched on April 8, 1966, but its battery failed after 3 days and terminated the mission. OAO-2 was successfully launched on December 7, 1968, carried 11 UV telescopes, and was actively observing for years. It detected a supernova in May 1972, as well as the first UV radiation from the center of the Andromeda Galaxy M31. OAO-B, on November 30, 1970, failed to achieve Earth orbit, and fell into the Atlantic. OAO-C became OAO-3 after its successful launch on August 21, 1972, and was later named Copernicus. It carried an 80-cm UV telescope and successfully carried out its observing program.
    OAO-3 Copernicus image; Copernicus page (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa);
    Radio Astronomy Explorer (RAE) 1 (Explorer 38) and 2 (Explorer 49) (Nasa)
    Explorer 38 (RAE-1) was put in Earth orbit and deployed four 230-meter (755 ft) antennae; it discovered that Earth emits radio waves similar to Jupiter. Explorer 49 (RAE-2) was put into Lunar orbit, and investigated solar and galactic radio radiation, using the Moon to "shield" Earth with its radio noise.
    Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS) A (=1, Explorer 42, Uhuru), B (=2, Explorer 48), C (=3, Explorer 53) (Nasa)
    Explorer 42 (SAS-A) became SAS-1 after its successful launch on December 12, 1970, from the Italian San Marco platform close to the equator near Kenia, in its 520 x 560 km orbit of only 3 degrees inclination; it was the first X-ray satellite, carrying a telescope sensitive for X-ray photons of 2..20 keV energy. It was later renamed Uhuru, and was actively observing until March March, 1973. Explorer 48 (SAS-B, SAS-2) was launched into a similar orbit (440 x 610 km, i = 2 deg) on November 15, 1972, and active until June, 1973; it carried a telescope sensitive for Gamma rays of 20 MeV to 1 GeV energy. Explorer 53 (SAS-C, SAS-3) was finally launched on May 5, 1975, and carried a X-ray telescope.
    Images: Uhuru (SAS-1, Explorer 42), SAS-2 (Explorer 48), SAS-3 (Explorer 53)
    Pages at HEASARC (GSFC, Nasa): Uhuru (Expoler 42); SAS 2 (Explorer 48); SAS 3 (Explorer 53)
    TD-1A (ESA)
    Thor Delta satellite 1A. Launched on March 12, 1972, into a 514x533 km orbit of 97.6 deg inclination. Investigated X-rays of 3-30 keV, and with its spark chamber MIMOSA, Gamma rays of 70-300 MeV photon energy. Performed a full-sky UV survey, cataloguing 15,000 stars. TD-1A image; TD-1A page (HEASARC)
    ANS-1 (Netherlands)
    The Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (ANS) 1 was launched on August 30, 1974, and active until 1976. It carried 3 instruments: 1. an UV telescope spectrometer, 2. SXX (Soft X-ray Experiment) to observe X-rays of 0.6 and 2 to 6 keV, and 3. HXX (Hard X-ray Experiment), sensitive for X-rays of 1.5 to 30 keV. ANS image [270k gif]; ANS page (HEASARC)
    Aryabhata (India)
    Indian Scientific Satellite, launched April 19, 1975. Measured X-rays from Milky Way and extragalactic regions, besides Solar and ionosphere observations. Aryabhata image; Aryabhata homepage (HEASARC)
    COS-B (ESA)
    X- and Gamma-ray satellite observatory, launched August 9, 1975. Active until April 6, 1982. COS-B image [60k gif]; COS-B page (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa)
    High Energy Astronomical Observatory 1, 2 (Einstein), 3 (Nasa)
    These three satellites were used to investigate the sky in the X-ray and Gamma ray sky. HEAO 1 was launched aboard Atlas Centaur on August 12, 1977, and operational through January 9, 1979. It scanned the whole X-ray sky at quantum energies 0.2 keV to 10 MeV and made many pointed observations. HEAO 2 was launched on November 13, 1978 nad operational until April 25, 1981 (with one longer interuption). It made over 5,000 targetted observations, and was named Einstein. HEAO 3 was launched on September 20, 1979, carried Gamma ray telescopes, and was active until it finally ceased operation on May 29, 1981.
    Images: HEAO-1 image [214k gif], HEAO-2 image [182k gif], HEAO-3 image [38k gif]
    Homepages: HEAO-1 (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa), HEAO-2 (HEASARC), HEAO-3 (HEASARC)
    IUE (ESA, Nasa, UK)
    Launched January 26, 1978, by a Thor-Delta from Cape Kennedy. 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 image [51k gif]; IUE homepage (GSFC/Nasa); IUE homepage (ESA/Villafranca, Spain); IUE page at APOD (Astronomical picture of the day), IUE shutdown page
    Hakucho (Japan)
    Known as CORSA-b before launch on February 21, 1979; X-ray satellite. Active until April 15, 1985. Hakucho image [81k gif], Hakucho homepage (HEASARC)
    P78-1 (Nasa)
    Launched February 24, 1979. Shot down in USAF anti-satellite weapons test on September 13, 1985. P78-1 image; P78-1 homepage (HEASARC)
    Bhaskara-I (India)
    Launched June 7, 1979 with a Soviet Intercosmos. 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)
    Tenma (Japan)
    Known as Astro B prior to its launch on February 20, 1981. X-ray satellite. Active until late 1984. Tenma image [57k gif]; Tenma homepage (HEASARC)
    IRAS (Nasa, Netherlands)
    Infra Red Astronomical Satellite. Launched January 26, 1983, by a Delta 3910 from the Western Space Missile Range (WSMR), Vandenberg, California. IRAS image; IRAS homepage and IRAS discoveries (IPAC, Caltech), IRAS stuff from the NSSDC database
    Astron-1 (USSR)
    80-cm UV telescope, launched March 23, 1983 with a Proton (D-1-e) rocket. Active until July, 1989. Astron image [51k gif] (diagram); Astron page (HEASARC)
    Exosat (ESA)
    European X-ray Observatory Satellite. Launched May 26, 1983, by a Delta 3914 from Vandenberg, CA (WSMR). Operational to April, 1986. Exosat image [19k gif]; Exosat data center (ESTEC); Exosat page (HEASARC)
    Ginga (Japan)
    Known as Astro-C prior to launch on February 5, 1987. X-ray satellite. Active until November 1, 1991. Ginga image [467k gif]; Ginga homepage (ISAS), Ginga homepage (HEASARC)
    Astrometrical satellite for measuring high precision parallaxes. Launched in August 8, 1989 by an Ariane rocket. 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 some 1,050,000 positions at 0.025 arc seconds, in two color band ("B" and "V"), so that also over 1 million color indices were obtained.
    Hipparcos image [29k jpg], Hipparcos homepage (ESTEC)
    COsmic Background Explorer (COBE)
    Cobe was launched in 1989 and measured the cosmological microwave background radiation. The most significant result was the discovery of very small fluctuations (order 0.0001, 10^{-5}) in the background.
    COBE image [364 k gif], caption, Cobe homepage (GSFC/Nasa)
    Granat (USSR)
    Launched December 1, 1989, by a Proton. Gamma ray satellite. Granat image; Granat homepage (HEASARC)
    Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) (NASA)
    Launched on April 5, 1990 by the Space Shuttle mission STS-37, Atlantis F-8. Developed as "Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO)". Carried instruments to investigate Gamma photons of energy 30 keV to 30 GeV. Deorbited and re-entered on June 4, 2000.
    GRO image [48k gif]; Compton GRO homepage (GSFC/Nasa); Spacelink CGRO material
    Hubble Space Telescope (HST) (Nasa, ESA)
    Formerly called the "Large Space Telescope (LST)" and later simply the "Space Telescope (ST)". Launched on April 24, 1990 by the Space Shuttle mission STS-31 (Discovery F-10) with an improperly designed optics, this spacecraft carries the largest telescope ever launched to orbit, with a 2.4-meter aperture primary mirror. When the design error was detected, a computer program was involved to get the images better, but the telescope became usable to its full capabilities only after the HST refurbishment Shuttle mission, STS-61 (Endeavour F-5, HST Service Mission 1), in December 1993. Since, it has delivered a bunch of premium scientific results and gorgeous images of all kinds of celestial objects.

    A second service mission (SM-2) was flown in February, 1997 with the Shuttle flight STS-82 (Discovery), a third one (SM-3A) in December, 1999 (STS-103 Discovery), a fourth (SM-3B) in March, 2001 (STS-109 Columbia). A final service mission (SM-4) is currently scheduled for April, 2008 (STS-125 Discovery).
    Images: HST image (art), Hubble in orbit from Discovery STS-82
    Webpages: Hubble Project Homepage (GSFC/Nasa); Hubble Space Telescope homepage (STScI); Hubble Heritage (STScI); Latest results; HST image archive at SEDS (HTML access); Messier Object observations by the HST

    The Roentgen Satellite (Rosat) carries a 83-cm X-ray telescope of 2.4 meter focal lenght, for observing X-ray photons of 0.1 to 2.0 keV energy. It was launched on June 1, 1990, by a Delta II rocket.
    Rosat image [59k gif]; Rosat homepage at the MPE Garching; Rosat image collection at HEASARC
    Gamma (USSR)
    launched July 11, 1990 with a SL-4 Soyuz rocket. Gamma ray astronomy. Gamma image; Gamma homepage (HEASARC)
    Launched on 1991 July 17 from Kourou by Ariane 40, for the French Highschool of Engeneers in Electrotechnics and Electronics, ESIEE. Radio astronomy satellite.
    Extreme UltraViolet Explorer. Successfully launched on June 2, 1992, with a Delta II rocket.
    EUVE image [17k jpg]; EUVE CEA homepage;
    Eureca (ESA)
    European Retrievable Carrier. This reusable satellite carried Watch, the Wide-Angle Telescope for Cosmic Hard X-rays (of 6-150 keV energy). It was deployed into space by Shuttle Space Atlantis (launched July 31, 1992) in August 1992, and retrieved and brought back to Earth by Endeavour on July 1, 1993, nearly a year later. Eureca image; Eureca homepage (HEASARC)
    ASCA, Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics, Asuka (Japan)
    Formerly Astro-D. X-ray telescopes, launched February 20, 1993. ASCA image; ASCA page (HEASARC, GSFC/Nasa), ASCA homapage (ISAS/Japan)
    Alexis (DoE, USA; operated by LANL)
    Array of Low Energy X-ray Imaging Sensors. Launched on April 25, 1993, by an USAF Pegasus booster, dropped from plane. Built and controlled from LANL. Alexis image [33k jpg], another view [29k gif]. Alexis homepage, 2nd homepage
    Launched November 1, 1994. Carried TGRS (Transient Gamma Ray Spectrometer). GGS-Wind image [257k gif]; GGS-WIND homepage (HEASARC)
    IRTS/SFU (Japan)
    Infrared Telescope Satellite/Space Flyer Unit. Launched March 18, 1995 by H-II. IRTS homepage
    Student-built radio astronomical satellite, launched 1995 November 4 as co-payload on a Delta II rocket
    ISO, Infrared Space Observatory (ESA)
    Launched successfully with Ariane 44P from Kourou on November 17, 1995. ISO image; ISO homepage (ESTEC), ISO images; ISO homepage at IPAC/Caltech, ISO gallery
    Rossi X-rays Timing Explorer
    Launched by a Delta II rocket in December, 1995, the Rossi X-ray Time Explorer (RXTE, formerly XTE) is to observe X-ray photons of 2-200 keV energy, with its 3 instruments:
    • Proportional Counter Array
    • High Energy X-ray Timing Experiment
    • All Sky Monitor
    XTE image [79k gif]; XTE homepage (HEASARC); First XTE results (SMC X-1 Black Hole candidate)
    Midcourse Space Experiment. Launched by Delta II on April 24, 1996. Carried IR instruments sensitive for radiation of 4.2 to 26 microns (micrometers) wavelength. MSX homepage (Navy Research Lab); MSX homepage (IPAC, Caltech); MSX Celestial Background page; MSX Celestial Background team
    SAX (Italy)
    Later (nick-) named BeppoSAX. Launched by Atlas Centaur on April 30, 1996, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. X-ray satellite. SAX homepage, another SAX page
    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. Successfully Launched on February 12, 1997. HALCA/Muses-B project info page at ISAS; Muses-B homepage; VSOP homepage; VSOP information and VSOP project page at JPL
    Minisat 1 (Spain)
    carries the Low Energy Gamma-Ray Imager (LEGRI). Successfully launched on April 21, 1997. Minisat image, Legri Observatory image, Legri pattern image; Minisat homepage, LEGRI homepage (GSFC), Legri homepage (Univ. Valencia)
    Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite. Scheduled to investigate water, molecular oxygen, CO, and atomic C emissions from interstellar clouds. Launched on December 5, 1998 by Pegasus XL/L-1011. In Nasa's Small Explorer (SMEX) Program. SWAS homepage (GSFC), SWAS Research Homepage (Harvard)
    Advanced Research and Global Observations Satellite, carrying the Unconventional Stellar Aspect (USA) experiment, launched February 23, 1999 with a Delta rocket. Argos USA image
    Wide Field Infrared Explorer. Launched on March 4, 1999 with Pegasus, but failed because of an electronic failure which lead to destroying the cooling system for the IR camera. Some optical astronomy is done with its 5-cm optical guidance telescope, notably stellar seismology. In Nasa's Small Explorer (SMEX) Program. WIRE homepage (IPAC/Caltech)
    ABRIXAS (Germany)
    "A Broad-Band Imaging All-Sky Survey". X-ray satellite. Launched flawlessly on April 28, 1999 with Cosmos-3M, but failed during second day in orbit because of power supply failure.
    Far UV Spectroscopic Explorer. Launched on June 24, 1999 with a Delta rocket. FUSE image [19k gif]; FUSE homepage
    Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO)
    Developed as Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF). This 5,200 kg satellite is a 11.2 meter long, 4.2 meter diameter observatory, and should observe cosmic X-ray sources, during a scheduled active lifetime of 5 years. Successfully launched on July 23, 1999 by Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-93).
    AXAF image [93k gif], caption; Chandra info (HEASARC); Chandra homepage (Nasa), Chandra homepage (Harvard)
    XMM Newton (ESA)
    High Throughput X-ray Spectroscopy mission; successfully launched December 10, 1999 with Ariane 504 from Kourou. XMM image [73k gif]; XMM homepage (ESA); ESA science: XMM Newton; XMM-Group at IAA Tübingen; XMM Newton Science Operations Center (ESA Villafranca, Spain); Image Gallery
    Astro-E (Japan)
    Unfortunately, the spacecraft got lost during lanch attempt on February 10, 2000. Designed for a 2-year operational life, it carried a complex X-ray observatory, equipped with 4 foiled telescopes with imaging spectrometers, 1 foiled telescope with micro-calorimeter, and one hard X-ray detector. Succeeded by Astro-E2 (see below).
    Astro-E image [22k gif]; Astro E page (HEASARC)
    High Energy Transient Explorer. Successfully launched on October 9, 2000 by Pegasus from Kwajalein missile range facility. To detect GRBs and observe in X-ray and Gamma ray radiation. HETE-2 Homepage (HEASARC)
    Microwave Anisotropy Probe. Launched successfully June 30, 2001 with a Delta II from KSC, Florida into an orbit around the L2 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system, 1.5 million km from Earth, which was reached October 1, 2001. To measure inhomogenities in the Cosmic Background Radiation at improved angular resolution compared to Cobe. MAP homepage
    Integral (ESA, Russia, Nasa)
    International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory. Successfully launched on October 17, 2002 with a Russian Proton; uses Nasa's Deep Space Network of ground stations. This ESA satellite is to observe X- and Gamma-ray sources 15 keV to 10 MeV at a resolution of 12 arc minutes. Integral image; Integral homepage (ESA); INTEGRAL IBIS home page (Uni. Tübingen).
    CHIPSat (GSFC/Nasa/U Berkeley)
    Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer. Succesfully launched on January 12, 2003. To carry out all-sky spectroscopy of the diffuse background at wavelengths from 90 to 260 Angstrom. University-Class Explorer (UNEX) mission funded by Nasa. CHIPSat homepage (U Berkeley)
    GALEX (JPL/Nasa)
    Galaxy Evolution Explorer. UV imaging and spectroscopic survey mission, to map the history and evolution of the Universe of galaxies. Successfully launched with Pegasus XL on April 28, 2003 from KSC/Florida. A small explorer class mission. GALEX homepage (Caltech), GALEX page (JPL)
    MOST (Canada)
    Microvariability and Oscillations of STars. Successfully launched on June 30, 2003 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)
    Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) (JPL/Nasa)
    Developed as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF). Fourth and final of NASA's Great Observatories, in Nasa's Origins program. Successfully launched with a Delta 7920H from Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 25, 2003. SIRTF homepage (Caltech)
    Swift (GSFC/Nasa)
    Multi-wavelength mission to study Gamma-Ray Bursts in X-ray and UV/optical. Successfully launched with a Delta II (7320) from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 20, 2004. Swift homepage (GSFC)
    Suzaku, Astro-E2 (Japan)
    X-ray astronomy for 0.4-700 keV radiation. Successfully lauched on July 10 2005 with the M-V-6 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center. Backup for lost Astro-E. Astro E2 homepage (ISAS); Astro-E2 page (HEASARC); Astro-E2 mission page (Nasa); Astro-E2 page (ESA)
    AKARI, Astro-F, IRIS (Japan)
    Infrared Imaging Surveyor. Successfully launched by M_V rocket on February 22, 2006 (originally scheduled for 2002, then February, then late 2004, 2005). IRIS homepage (ISAS); AKARI/Astro-F page (ESA)
    CoRoT (ESA)
    Mission for photometric detection of rocky planets around nearby stars. Launched on December 27, 2006 by Soyuz-Fregat from Baikonur. CoRoT overview (ESA)
    Agile (ASI, Italy)
    Gamma-ray astronomy satellite. Successfully launched on April 23, 2007 with PSLV (India). Agile Homepage (Agile team); Agile Homepage (ASI); Agile Homepage (INAF).
    Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, GLAST (GSFC/Nasa)
    Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) was renamed Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope 2 months after it had been successfully launched with a Delta II 7920-H on June 11, 2008 from Launch Complex 17-B of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. With its two instruments, Large Area Telescope (LAT) and the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM), it explores the universe in the light of Gamma-ray photons with energies from 8 keV to 300 GeV. LAP has a filed of view covering about 1/5 of the sky with angular resolution of about 1 arc min at 30 MeV to 300 GeV. GBM watches the entire sky in 8 keV to within LAT's enrgy range. GLAST homepage
    Kepler (Nasa)
    Space-based search for extrasolar planets. Successfully launched on March 6, 2009 with a Delta rocket. Kepler Homepage
    Herschel, FIRST (Esa)
    Far IR and Submillimeter Space Telescope; to observe objects in the 85 to 900 micron part of the spectrum for a mission time of 2-3 years. Successfully launched together with Planck on Ariane 5 on May 14, 2009. Placed in Lissajous orbit about the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (L2). FIRST image; Herschel homepage (ESA), IPAC Herschel page
    Planck, COBRAS/SAMBA (ESA)
    Cosmic Background Radiation Anisotropy Satellite/Satellite for Measurement of Background Anisotropy. To map the Cosmic Microwave Background anisotropies with improved sensitivity and angular resolution for a mission time of about 2 years. Successfully launched together with Herschel on Ariane 5 on May 14, 2009. Placed in Lissajous orbit about the second Lagrange point of the Earth-Sun system (L2), with an average amplitude of about 400,000 km. Planck homepage (ESA), IPAC Planck page
    WISE (Nasa)
    Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. Successfully launched by Delta II on December 14, 2009, WISE is a Nasa funded Medium Class Explorer Mission (MIDEX) to obtain wide-field infrared images of the sky, intended to obtain an infrared map of the sky during a 6-months mission, in about 1.5 million images. WISE homepage (Berkeley)
    HealthSat, GSAT 4 (India)
    UV observations. Attempted launch with a GSLV failed on April 15, 2010. Was to carry the UV telescope TAUVEX, originally scheduled as Israeli part of SXG. TAUVEX homepage (Indian Institute of Astrophysics, IIAP)
    RadioAstron, Spektr R (Russia)
    Radio astronomy satellite. Successfully launched on July 18, 2011. This mission had been formerly scheduled for 1997-1998, then 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010. 10-m radio telescope satellite, to fly in high elliptical orbit. RadioAstron Project Web Site (RSSI)
    NuSTAR (Nasa)
    Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. High energy X-ray observations. Successfully launched by OSC Pegasus on June 13, 2012. NuSTAR homepage (Nasa), NuSTAR homepage (Caltech)
    GAIA (ESA)
    Global Astrometric Interferometer for Astrophysics. Astrometrical satellite, intended to improve the accuracy and extend the Hipparcos survey. To operate in a Lissajous-type orbit around the L2 point of the Sun-Earth system, which is located 1.5 million km from the Earth in the anti-Sun direction. Successfully launched on December 19, 2013 by a Soyuz-Fregat. GAIA homepage (ESA)
    Astrosat 1 (India)
    UV and X-ray observations. Successfully launched by PSLV on September 28, 2015. UV and X-ray astronomy satellite, for surveys and simultaneous observations at different wavelengths, spectroscopy and variability studies. Astrosat Homepage (ISRO)
    LISA Pathfinder (ESA)
    Successfully launched with Vega launcher on December 3, 2015, into a Halo orbit around Sun_Earth Lagrange point L1. Testing concepts for gravitational wave detection to prepare LISA mission. LISA Pathfinder homepage (ESA)
    DAMPE (China, CAS)
    Dark Matter Particle Explorer. Successfully launched with Long March 20 launcher on December 17, 2015. Observe high-energy electrons, heavy nuclei and Gamma rays in TeV range.
    Hitomi, Astro-H, New X-ray Telescope (NeXT) (Japan)
    X-ray astronomy satellite, launched with H-IIA rocket on February 17, 2016, to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) of 575 km height. Contact to satellite was lost on March 27, 2016, the satellite apparently breaking up into 5 pieces. Hitomi page (JAXA), Hitomi at HEASARC
    Mikhailo Lomonosov (MVL-300) (Russia)
    Gamma and X-ray astronomy satellite built by Moscow State University. Originally scheduled for launch in 2011, the year of the 300th birthday of Mikhail Lomonosov, this spacecraft was launched on April 28, 2016 with Soyuz 2.1a launcher. Collected data until late 2017; attempts to repair were given up in May 2019.
    HXMT (China)
    Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope. Sucessfully launched on June 14, 2017.
    TESS (Nasa)
    Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Sucessfully launched on April 18, 2018.
    Spekrt-RG, SRG, SXG (Nasa/Russia/Germany)
    Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma, Spectrum-X-Gamma. Formerly planned for 1998, then 2015, the spacecraft was successfully launched with a Proton-M launcher on July 13, 2019, to a halo orbit near Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2. Instrument were German eROSITA and Russian/German ART-XC X-ray telescopes. Instruments worked until March 2022 when the telesopes were turned off. SXG image [55k gif]; SXG homepage (Harvard), Spectrum-X-Gamma homepage.
    CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) Sucessfully launched on December 18, 2019 with Soyuz-ST-A from Kourou. To observe exoplanets in visual and IR.
    IXPE (Nasa)
    Explorer XCVII (97), Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, SMEX-14. Launched December 9, 2021 with Falcon 9 to 540 km Low Earth Orbit. Polarimetric X-ray observations.
    James Webb Space Telescope, New Generation Space Telescope (Nasa, ESA, JAXA). Successfully launched on December 25, 2021, with an Ariane V ECA, into a halo orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrange Point L2. 6.5-meter IR (and red-orange visual light) telescope. NGST homepage (GSFC, Nasa);

    Future projects:

    Single Aperture Far-Infrared Observatory, JPL/Nasa. Primary mirror of 5-10 meters diameter, cryogenic system. Proposed for launch in 2015. SAFIR homepage (JPL)
    XEUS (ESA)
    X-ray Evolving Universe Spectroscopy mission. To be launched by Ariane V in 2018, into an orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2. XEUS homepage
    Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. Project started in 2004, for a scheduled launch in 2018 with a Delta IV. LISA homepage (Nasa); LISA homepage (ESA)
    SIM Lite, former SIM.
    Space Interferometer Mission (JPL/Nasa). To be launched after 2020, from ETR at Cape Canaveral with a Delta-3, into an Earth-trailing solar orbit. 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. Scheduled for launch around 2020. M-class mission. Euclid home (ESA)
    PLATO (ESA).
    PLAnetary Transit and Oscillations of stars. 6-year mission, large amplitude libration orbit around Sun-Earth Lagrangian point, L2. Scheduled for launch around 2020. M-class mission. PLATO home (ESA)
    International X-ray Observatory / Advanced Telescope for High ENergy Astrophysics, former Constellation X (GSFC/Nasa). Large X-ray orbital observatory with an array of X-ray telescopes. To be launched in 2021. Constellation X homepage
    Wide-Field Infra-Red Survey Telescope, Nasa. 1.5-meter IR telescope. To be launched 2022.
    Dark Energy Space Telescope (Nasa).
    To be announced

    .. the following part in process to be updated

    Dark Universe Observatory (Nasa, Germany). X-ray survey. In essence, a reflight of ABRIXAS. To be launched with Taurus, no earlier than 2012. DUO page (Nasa)
    StarLight (Nasa)
    Former Space Technology 3. Star interferometer: 2 telescopes separated by a 125m arm. Scheduled for launch in 2006. Starlight Homepage (JPL Planetquest)
    High Resolution Spectroscopic Imager. Scheduled for 2011-15.
    MAXIM Pathfinder (U Colorado, GSFC/Nasa)
    Micro-Arcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission Pathfinder. Scheduled for 2011-15. MAXIM Pathfinder Homepage
    Spectrum UV
    Spectroscopic UV satellite. Spectrum UV image; Spectrum UV homepage (AI Potsdam)
    Exploration of Nearby Planetary Systems. Scheduled for about 2015. ExNPS techinfo (JPL, Nasa)
    Radio astronomy/VLBI satellite project proposition for beyond 2015. ARISE homepage
    MAXIM (Nasa)
    Micro-Arcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission. High resolution x-ray survey telescope satellite. Study for beyond 2015. MAXIM homepage
    Generation-X (Nasa)
    Ultra-large aperture X-ray telescope. Study for beyond 2015. Generation X homepage
    Cancelled missions:
    VSOP-2 (Japan)
    Radio astronomy satellite. Scheduled for 2012.
    TPF (Nasa)
    Terrestrial Planet Finder. Scheduled for launch with Ariane 5 in 2012-15. Search for terrestrial planets at nearby stars. TPF homepage (Planetquest), TPF info (JPL)
    Darwin (ESA)
    Space Infrared Interferometer project. Space-based search for extrasolar planets. Scheduled for about 2015 with an Ariane V. Darwin homepage (ESA)
    EXIST (GSFC/Nasa, Caltech)
    Energetic X-ray Imaging Survey Telescope. Hard X-ray (5-600 keV) imaging telescope satellite. Scheduled for 2015. EXIST homepage

    Space Observatories Flown on Human Space Missions

    These telescopes were flown on crewed missions and usually taken back to Earth when the mission landed.
    Apollo 15
    had an UV telescope on its flight in July/August 1971, equipped with a Gamma ray spectrometer, sensitive for Gamma photons of 0.55 .. 8.6 MeV energy. Apollo 15/16 high-energy astronomy page (HEASARC)
    Apollo 16
    had an UV telesope onboard similar to that of Apollo 15, during its flight in April, 1972. Apollo 15/16 high-energy astronomy page (HEASARC)
    had the Apollo Telescope Mount, an X-ray telescope primarily used for Solar observation. It was mounted on the Skylab Space Station (launched unmanned in May 1973) and continued its mission for years after the third and last manned mission. It ceased to exist when Skylab crashed down in 1979.
    Skylab images: [41k gif], Skylab image [336k gif]. Skylab astronomy page (HEASARC); Skylab ATM image analysis homepage
    Apollo ASTP
    carried instruments to observe X-rays of 0.6-10 keV energy. Observed objects were the SNR MSH 14-63, and the pulsar SMC X-1 in the Small Magellanic Cloud. ASTP X-ray astronomy page (HEASARC)
    Kvant (USSR)
    was launched on March 31, 1987, and coupled to space station Mir on April 9 of that year. It was claimed to be an "Astrophysical Module". Kvant page (HEASARC)
    Astro-1 Space Shuttle Mission (STS-35)
    Carried several telescopes:
    • Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT)
    • Bright Band X-Ray Telescope (BBXRT)
    • Hopkins University Telescope (HUT)
    • Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photo-Polarimeter Experiment (WUPPE)
    UIT Images from the Astro-1 mission; UIT homepage. BBXRT homepage; BBXRT mission and BBXRT homepage at HEASARC. HUT homepage. WUPPE homepage. STS-35 Space Shuttle Mission.
    Orfeus-SPAS, Astro-SPAS, ORFEUS-SPAS I Space Shuttle Mission (STS-51)
    The first astronomical mission of the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS), which had been previously flown with other payloads on STS-7 (Challenger, SPAS-01), STS-41B (Challenger, SPAS-01A) and STS-39 (SPAS-II). STS-51 Space Shuttle Discovery Mission, launched Sep 12, 1993, landed Sep 22, 1993. Orbiting Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer (ORFEUS), a 1-m telescope for use in UV spectroscopy, mounted on Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS), was free-flying for several days.
    Crista-SPAS-01, Astro SPAS Space Shuttle Mission (STS-66)
    Free-flyer Nov 4-12, 1994, deployed and retrieved by Atlantis. CRISTA homepage, STS-66 Space Shuttle Mission.
    Astro-2 Space Shuttle Mission (STS-67)
    • Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UIT)
    • Hopkins University Telescope (HUT)
    • Wisconsin Ultraviolet Photo-Polarimeter Experiment (WUPPE)
    UIT Images from the Astro-2 mission; UIT homepage; HUT homepage; WUPPE homepage. STS-67 Space Shuttle Mission.
    Orpheus-SPAS, Astro-SPAS II Space Shuttle Mission (STS-80)
    Flown by shuttle orbiter Columbia Nov 19-Dec 7, 1996, free-flyer Nov 19-Dec 4. A 1-m telescope for spectroscopy in far and extreme ultaviolet spectral range. Orfeus 2 homepage, Orfeus 2 page at Uni Tübingen. STS-80 Space Shuttle Mission.
    Crista-SPAS-2, Astro SPAS Space Shuttle Mission (STS-85)
    Free-flyer August 8-16, 1997, deployed and retrieved by Discovery. CRISTA homepage, STS-85 Space Shuttle Mission.
    Future Projects:
    Lobster-ISS (ESA)
    An Imaging All-Sky X-Ray monitor for the International Space Station (ISS). Study for a mission beyond 2015. Lobster-ISS Homepage (Univ. of Leicester, UK)


    Hartmut Frommert [contact]

    [Spider] @ [SEDS]