List of space observatories

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This list is incomplete

This list of space telescopes (astronomical space observatories) is grouped by major frequency ranges: gamma ray, x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, microwave and radio. Telescopes that work in multiple frequency bands are included in all of the appropriate sections. Space telescopes that collect particles, such as cosmic ray nuclei and/or electrons, as well as instruments that aim to detect gravitational waves, are also listed. Missions that look solely within our solar system, including the Earth, Sun, and other planets within our system, are mostly excluded; see List of Solar System probes for these. List may not be complete or updated.

Two values are provided for the dimensions of the initial orbit. For telescopes in Earth orbit, the min and max altitude are given in kilometers. For telescopes in solar orbit, the minimum distance (periapsis) and the maximum distance (apoapsis) between the telescope and the center of mass of the sun are given in astronomical units (AU).

Rows with a dark backdrop are terminated missions.

Gamma ray[edit]

Gamma ray telescopes collect and measure individual, high energy gamma rays from astrophysical sources. These are absorbed by the atmosphere, requiring that observations are done by high-altitude balloons or space missions. Gamma rays can be generated by supernovae, neutron stars, pulsars and black holes. Gamma ray bursts, with extremely high energies, have also been detected but have yet to be identified.[1]

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
3rd High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO 3)NASA20 September 197929 May 1981Earth orbit (486.4–504.9 km)[2][3][3]
Astrorivelatore Gamma ad Immagini LEggero (AGILE)ISA23 April 2007Earth orbit (524–553 km)[4][5]
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO)NASA5 April 19914 June 2000Earth orbit (362–457 km)[6][7][8]
Cos-BESA9 August 197525 April 1982Earth orbit (339.6–99,876 km)[9][10][11]
GammaUSSR, CNES, RSA1 July 19901992Earth orbit (375 km)[12]
Fermi Gamma-ray Space TelescopeNASA11 June 2008Earth orbit (555 km)[13]
GranatCNRS & IKI1 December 198925 May 1999Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km)[14][15][16]
High Energy Transient Explorer 2 (HETE 2)NASA9 October 20002007 ?Earth orbit (590–650 km)[17][18][19]
International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL)ESA17 October 2002Earth orbit (639–153,000 km)[20][21]
Low Energy Gamma Ray Imager (LEGRI)INTA19 May 19972002Earth orbit (600 km)[22][23]
Second Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS 2)NASA15 November 19728 June 1973Earth orbit (443–632 km)[24][25]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst ExplorerNASA20 November 2004Earth orbit (585–604 km)[26][27]

X-ray[edit]

X-ray telescopes measure high-energy photons called X-rays. These can not travel a long distance through the atmosphere, meaning that they can only be observed high in the atmosphere or in space. Several types of astrophysical objects emit X-rays, from galaxy clusters, through black holes in active galactic nuclei to galactic objects such as supernova remnants, stars, and binary stars containing a white dwarf (cataclysmic variable stars), neutron star or black hole (X-ray binaries). Some solar system bodies emit X-rays, the most notable being the Moon, although most of the X-ray brightness of the Moon arises from reflected solar X-rays. A combination of many unresolved X-ray sources is thought to produce the observed X-ray background.

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
1st High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO 1)NASA12 August 19779 January 1979Earth orbit (445 km)[28][29][30]
3rd High Energy Astronomy Observatory (HEAO 3)NASA20 September 197929 May 1981Earth orbit (486.4–504.9 km)[2][3][3]
A Broadband Imaging X-ray All-sky Survey (ABRIXAS)DLR28 April 19991 July 1999Earth orbit (549–598 km)[31][32][33]
Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA)ISAS & NASA20 February 19932 March 2001Earth orbit (523.6–615.3 km)[34][35]
AGILEISA23 April 2007Earth orbit (524–553 km)[4][5]
Ariel VSRC & NASA15 October 197414 March 1980Earth orbit (520 km)[36][37]
Array of Low Energy X-ray Imaging Sensors (Alexis)LANL25 April 19932005Earth orbit (749–844 km)[38][39][40]
AryabhataISRO19 April 197523 April 1975Earth orbit (563–619 km)[41]
AstronIKI23 March 1983June 1989Earth orbit (2,000—200,000 km)[42][43][44]
Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (ANS)SRON30 August 1974June 1976Earth orbit (266–1176 km)[45][46]
BeppoSAXASI30 April 199630 April 2002Earth orbit (575–594 km)[47][48][49]
Broad Band X-ray Telescope / Astro 1NASA2 December 199011 December 1990Earth orbit (500 km)[50][51]
Chandra X-ray ObservatoryNASA23 July 1999Earth orbit (9,942–140,000 km)[52][53]
Cos-BESA9 August 197525 April 1982Earth orbit (339.6–99,876 km)[9][10][11]
Cosmic Radiation Satellite (CORSA)ISAS6 February 19766 February 1976Failed launch[54][55]
Einstein Observatory (HEAO 2)NASA13 November 197826 April 1981Earth orbit (465–476 km)[56][57]
EXOSATESA26 May 19838 April 1986Earth orbit (347–191,709 km)[58][59][60]
Ginga (Astro-C)ISAS5 February 19871 November 1991Earth orbit (517–708 km)[61][62][63]
GranatCNRS & IKI1 December 198925 May 1999Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km)[14][15][16]
HakuchoISAS21 February 197916 April 1985Earth orbit (421–433 km)[64][65][66]
High Energy Transient Explorer 2 (HETE 2)NASA9 October 2000Earth orbit (590–650 km)[17][18][19]
International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL)ESA17 October 2002Earth orbit (639–153,000 km)[20][21]
Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)NASA13 June 2012Earth orbit (603.5 km)[67][68]
ROSATNASA & DLR1 June 199012 February 1999Re-entry 23 October 2011.[69]
Formerly Earth orbit (580 km)
[70][71][72]
Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE)NASA30 December 19953 January 2012[73]Earth orbit (409 km)[74][75]
Suzaku (ASTRO-E2)JAXA & NASA10 July 2005Earth orbit (550 km)[76][77]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst ExplorerNASA20 November 2004Earth orbit (585–604 km)[26][27]
TenmaISAS20 February 198319 January 1989Earth orbit (489–503 km)[78][79][80]
Third Small Astronomy Satellite (SAS-C)NASA7 May 1975April 1979Earth orbit (509–516 km)[81][82][83]
UhuruNASA12 December 1970March 1973Earth orbit (531–572 km)[84][85][86]
XMM-NewtonESA10 December 1999Earth orbit (7,365–114,000 km)[87][88]

Ultraviolet[edit]

Ultraviolet telescopes make observations at ultraviolet wavelengths, i.e. between approximately 10 and 320 nm. Light at these wavelengths is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so observations at these wavelengths must be performed from the upper atmosphere or from space.[89] Objects emitting ultraviolet radiation include the Sun, other stars and galaxies.[90]

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
Astro 2NASA2 March 199318 March 1993Earth orbit (349–363 km)[91][92]
AstronIKI23 March 1983June 1989Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km)[42][43][44]
Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph (UVC)NASA16 April 197223 April 1972Descartes Highlands on Lunar surface[93]
Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (ANS)SRON30 August 1974June 1976Earth orbit (266–1176 km)[45][46]
Broad Band X-ray Telescope / Astro 1NASA2 December 199011 December 1990Earth orbit (500 km)[50][51]
Cosmic Hot Interstellar Spectrometer (CHIPS)NASA13 January 200311 April 2008Earth orbit (578–594 km)[94][95]
Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE)NASA7 June 199231 January 2001Earth orbit (515–527 km)[96][97]
Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE)NASA & CNES & CSA24 June 199912 July 2007Earth orbit (752–767 km)[98][99]
Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX)NASA28 April 200328 June 2013Earth orbit (691–697 km).[100][101][102]
Hisaki (SPRINT-A)JAXA14 September 2013[103]
Hubble Space TelescopeNASA & ESA24 April 1990Earth orbit (586.47–610.44 km)[104]
Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS)NASA27 June 2013Earth orbit[105][106]
International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE)ESA & NASA & SERC26 January 197830 September 1996Earth orbit (32,050–52,254 km)[107][108]
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Satellite 4 (Kaistsat 4)KARI27 September 20032007 ?Earth orbit (675–695 km)[109][110]
OAO-2 (Stargazer)NASA7 December 1968January 1973Earth orbit (749–758 km)[111][112]
OAO-3 CopernicusNASA21 August 1972February 1981Earth orbit (713–724 km)[111]
Orion 1 and Orion 2 Space ObservatoriesUSSROrion 1, 19 April 1971 (Salyut 1 space station); Orion 2, 18 December 18, 1973 (Soyuz 13 spacecraft)1971; 1973Earth orbit (Orion 1: 200–222 km; Orion 2: 188–247 km)[113][114]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer (Swift)NASA20 November 2004Earth orbit (585–604 km)[26][27]
Venus Spectral Rocket ExperimentNASA26 November 2013300 km[115]

Visible[edit]

The oldest form of astronomy, optical or visible-light astronomy extends from approximately 400 to 700 nm.[116] Positioning an optical telescope in space means that the telescope does not see any atmospheric effects (see astronomical seeing), providing higher resolution images. Optical telescopes are used to look at stars, galaxies, planetary nebulae and protoplanetary disks, amongst many other things.[117]

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
COROTCNES & ESA27 December 20062013Earth orbit (872–884 km)[118][119]
HipparcosESA8 August 1989March 1993Earth orbit (223–35,632 km)[120][121][122]
Hubble Space TelescopeNASA24 April 1990Earth orbit (586.47–610.44 km)[104]
Kepler MissionNASA6 March 2009Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit[123][124][125]
MOSTCSA30 June 2003Earth orbit (819–832 km)[126][127]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst ExplorerNASA20 November 2004Earth orbit (585–604 km)[26][27]
Gaia mission (astrometry)ESA19 December 2013Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point[128]

Infrared and Submillimetre[edit]

Infrared light is of lower energy than visible light, hence is emitted by cooler objects. As such, the following can be viewed in the infrared: cool stars (including brown dwarves), nebulae, and redshifted galaxies.[129]

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
AKARIJAXA21 February 200624 November 2011[130]Earth orbit (586.47–610.44 km)[131][132]
Herschel Space ObservatoryESA & NASA14 May 2009 [133]29 April 2013[134]Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point[135][136][137]
IRASNASA25 January 198321 November 1983Earth orbit (889–903 km)[138][139]
Infrared Space Observatory (ISO)ESA17 November 199516 May 1998Earth orbit (1000–70500 km)[140][140][141]
Infrared Telescope in SpaceISAS & NASDA18 March 199525 April 1995Earth orbit (486 km)[142][143]
Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX)USN24 April 199626 February 1997Earth orbit (900 km)[144]
Spitzer Space TelescopeNASA25 August 2003Solar orbit (0.98–1.02 AU)[145][146]
Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS)NASA6 December 1998Last used in 2005Earth orbit (638–651 km)[147][148]
Wide Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE)NASA5 March 1999no observationsRe-entered May 10, 2011[149][150]
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)NASA14 December 2009(hibernation Feb 2011-Aug 2013)Earth orbit (500 km)[151][152][153]

Microwave[edit]

Orbital Vsat

At microwave frequencies, photons are plentiful, but they have very low energy so lots of them need to be collected. At these frequencies, the Cosmic Microwave Background can be measured, as well as point sources and the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect, as well as synchrotron radiation and Bremsstrahlung from our own galaxy.

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE)NASA18 November 198923 December 1993Earth orbit (900 km)[154][155]
OdinSwedish Space Corporation20 February 2001Earth orbit (622 km)[156][157]
PlanckESA14 May 2009October 2013Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point(mission)
Heliocentric (Derelict)
[136][158][159]
WMAPNASA30 June 2001October 2010Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point[160]

Radio[edit]

As the atmosphere is transparent for radio waves, radio telescopes in space are of most use for Very Long Baseline Interferometry; doing simultaneous observations of a source with both a satellite and a ground-based telescope and by correlating their signals to simulate a radio telescope the size of the separation between the two telescopes. Observations can be of supernova remnants, masers, gravitational lenses, starburst galaxies, and many other things.

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy (HALCA, or VSOP)ISAS12 February 199730 November 2005Earth orbit (560–21,400 km)[161][162][163]
RadioAstronASC LPIMay 2011Earth orbit (10,000–390,000 km)[164][165][166]

Particle detection[edit]

Spacecraft and space-based modules that do particle detection, looking for cosmic rays and electrons. These can be emitted by the sun (Solar Energetic Particles), our galaxy (Galactic cosmic rays) and extragalactic sources (Extragalactic cosmic rays). There are also Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays from active galactic nuclei.

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
3rd High Energy Astrophysics Observatory (HEAO 3)NASA20 September 197929 May 1981Earth orbit (486.4–504.9 km)[2][3][3]
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 01 (AMS-01)NASA2 June 199812 June 1998Earth orbit (296 km)[167]
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02 (AMS-02)NASA16 May 2011Earth orbit (353 km)[168]
IBEXNASA19 October 2008Earth orbit[169]
Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics (PAMELA)ISA, INFN, RSA, DLR & SNSB15 May 2006Earth orbit (350–610 km)[170][171]
SAMPEXNASA / DE3 July 199230 June 2004Earth orbit[172]

Gravitational waves[edit]

A proposed new type of telescope is one that detects gravitational waves; ripples in space-time generated by colliding neutron stars and black holes.

To be launched[edit]

Not in space yet:

NameSpace AgencyLaunch DateTerminatedLocationRef(s)
AstrosatISRO2013Earth orbit (650 km)[173][174]
LISA PathfinderNASA/ESA2015L1 orbit[175]
James Webb Space TelescopeNASA/ESA/CSATBAOn Earth. Planned for Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point[176]
Tel Aviv University Ultraviolet Explorer (TAUVEX)Israeli Space AgencyTBA[177]
Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT)CNSA2014-2016[178]
DArk Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE )CNSA2015-2016[179]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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