Encyclopedia Astronautica

American solar satellite. One launch, 2000.03.25. The IMAGE spacecraft imaged remote particle populations in the magnetosphere.

These allowed detailed study of the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere and the magnetosphere's response during a magnetic storm.

IMAGE was the first of its kind, designed to actually "see" most of the major charged particle systems in the space surrounding Earth. Previous spacecraft explored the magnetosphere by detecting particles and fields they encountered as they passed through them. This technique limited their "vision" to small portions of this vast and dynamic field, which extends about 40,000 miles on Earth's day side and about 110,000 miles on Earth's night side. It would be similar to attempt understanding the nature of the world's oceans from a single buoy.

Just as taking a photograph of the night sky allows astronomers to count and study millions of stars at once, images returned by the IMAGE spacecraft were to provide simultaneous measurements of the densities, energies and masses of charged particles throughout the inner magnetosphere using three-dimensional imaging techniques.

During its two-year mission, the half-ton IMAGE spacecraft was to image remote particle populations in the magnetosphere. These "photographs" would then be linked together to make movies in real time. Their rapid two-minute cadence was to allow detailed study of the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere and the magnetosphere's response during a magnetic storm, which typically lasted a few days. IMAGE also used a real-time down link to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for space weather forecasting

IMAGE employed six instruments along with a data processor:

  • High Energy Neutral Atom (HENA) imager, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.
  • Medium Energy Neutral Atom (MENA) imager, SwRI
  • Low Energy Neutral Atom (LENA) imager, Goddard
  • Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) imager, University of Arizona
  • Far Ultraviolet (FUV) imager, University of California at Berkeley
  • Radio Plasma Imager (RPI), University of Massachusetts at Lowell
  • Central Instrument Data Processor (CIDP), SwRI.

IMAGE was the first of two scheduled Medium-class Explorer missions NASA. The total cost of the mission, including spacecraft, launch vehicle and mission operations for the first two years was $154 million. The IMAGE Project Office at Goddard managed the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science in Washington, D.C., while the principal investigator at SwRI had overall responsibility for the science, instrumentation, spacecraft and data analyses.

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space of Lockheed, Calif. built the IMAGE spacecraft under contract with SwRI. On orbit, the RPI antennas aboard IMAGE extended 10 m parallel to the spin axis and 250 m in four directions perpendicular to the spin axis, making IMAGE the longest spacecraft then in orbit.


Electric System: 0.286 average kW.

AKA: Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration.
Gross mass: 494 kg (1,089 lb).
Height: 1.52 m (4.98 ft).
Span: 250.00 m (820.00 ft).
First Launch: 2000.03.25.
Number: 1 .

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Delta The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Development began in 1955 and it continued in service in the 21st Century despite numerous candidate replacements. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Delta American orbital launch vehicle. The Delta launch vehicle was America's longest-lived, most reliable, and lowest-cost space launch vehicle. Delta began as Thor, a crash December 1955 program to produce an intermediate range ballistic missile using existing components, which flew thirteen months after go-ahead. Fifteen months after that, a space launch version flew, using an existing upper stage. The addition of solid rocket boosters allowed the Thor core and Able/Delta upper stages to be stretched. Costs were kept down by using first and second-stage rocket engines surplus to the Apollo program in the 1970's. Continuous introduction of new 'existing' technology over the years resulted in an incredible evolution - the payload into a geosynchronous transfer orbit increasing from 68 kg in 1962 to 3810 kg by 2002. Delta survived innumerable attempts to kill the program and replace it with 'more rationale' alternatives. By 2008 nearly 1,000 boosters had flown over a fifty-year career, and cancellation was again announced. More...
  • Delta 2 7000 American orbital launch vehicle. The Delta 7000 series used GEM-40 strap-ons with the Extra Extended Long Tank core, further upgraded with the RS-27A engine. More...
  • Delta 7326-9.5 American orbital launch vehicle. Four stage vehicle consisting of 3 x GEM-40 + 1 x EELT Thor/RS-27A + 1 x Delta K + 1 x Star 37FM with 2.9 m (9.5 foot) diameter fairing) More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...
  • Lockheed American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Lockheed Martin, Sunnyvale, CA, USA. More...

  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA/GSFC Orbital Information Group Website, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Space-Launcher.com, Orbital Report News Agency. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, Press Kit for IMAGE Mission, Web Address when accessed: here.
  • NASA Report, IMAGE Fact Sheet, Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Vandenberg Vandenberg Air Force Base is located on the Central Coast of California about 240 km northwest of Los Angeles. It is used for launches of unmanned government and commercial satellites into polar orbit and intercontinental ballistic missile test launches toward the Kwajalein Atoll. More...
  • Vandenberg SLC2W Delta launch complex. Originally a Thor 75 SMS launch pad. Upgraded to a space launch complex in 1966. More...

IMAGE Chronology

2000 March 25 - . 20:34 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC2W. LV Family: Delta. Launch Vehicle: Delta 7326-9.5. LV Configuration: Delta 7326-9.5 D277.
  • IMAGE - . Mass: 536 kg (1,181 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NASA Greenbelt. Manufacturer: Lockheed. Class: Earth. Type: Ionosphere satellite. Spacecraft: IMAGE. USAF Sat Cat: 26113 . COSPAR: 2000-017A. Apogee: 45,461 km (28,248 mi). Perigee: 1,408 km (875 mi). Inclination: 89.4260 deg. Period: 854.09 min. Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration was a MIDEX (mid-sized Explorer mission) developed by NASA-Goddard and the SWRI (Southwest Research Institute) of San Antonio, Texas. The spin-stabilised spacecraft carried a set of neutral atom and ultraviolet imagers, and antennae to study radio wavelength emissions from the magnetosphere plasma. The RPI radio plasma imager has four long wire antennae which will be deployed to a span of half a kilometre.

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