Ex­plorer pro­gram

All About Space - - Nasa At 60 -

1 Ex­plorer 1 was the first US satel­lite to go into or­bit around Earth in 1958. Al­though it was first a mil­i­tary project, NASA took over the Ex­plorer pro­gram with 1959’s Ex­plorer 6. The Ex­plorer pro­gram is on­go­ing.

Mod­ern Ex­plorer mis­sions are split into two main classes, Small and Medium. Medium mis­sions were orig­i­nally de­signed to be launched on a new, smaller, cheaper rocket, but this was never de­vel­oped, and a mod­i­fied Delta II is used in­stead. Ex­am­ples in­clude 1997’s ACE, which is still op­er­a­tional and study­ing the so­lar wind’s par­ti­cles, and WISE, launched in 2009.

Small mis­sions are even smaller, with a mis­sion cost cap of $165m (around £130m) in 2017. Ex­am­ples in­clude the Sun-ob­serv­ing IRIS tele­scope, which has dis­cov­ered plasma jets and tor­na­does in the Sun’s chro­mo­sphere.

Ex­plor­ers will con­tinue into at least 2019, and there’s no rea­son to be­lieve NASA is go­ing to stop there.

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