As the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch the Aditya-L1 solar exploration mission on September 2, there have been many space agencies of different countries across the world to launch missions to explore the Sun.
Let us take a look at some of the important missions launched previously by space agencies to study the Sun.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the space agency of the United States of America, launched the Parker Solar Probe in August 2018. Parker flew through the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, in December 2021 and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. This was the first time ever that a spacecraft had touched the Sun, NASA’s official website claimed.
NASA joined hands with the European Space Agency (ESA) and launched The Solar Orbiter in February 2020 to collect data and to find out how the Sun created and controlled the constant changing space environment throughout the solar system.
Other active solar missions by the NASA are Advanced Composition Explorer launched in August 1997; Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory in October 2006; Solar Dynamics Observatory in February 2010; and Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph launched in June 2013.
In December 1995, NASA, ESA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) jointly launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
The JAXA space agency of Japan launched its first solar observation satellite, Hinotori (ASTRO-A) in 1981. The objective was to study solar flares using hard X-rays, according to the official website of JAXA.
JAXA’s other solar exploratory missions and Yohkoh (SOLAR-A) launched in 1991; SOHO (along with NASA and ESA) in 1995; and Transient Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE), along with NASA, in 1998.
The Hinode (SOLAR-B) was launched in 2006. It was the successor to Yohkoh (SOLAR-A), the orbiting solar observatory. It was launched by Japan in collaboration with the US and the UK. The objective of Hinode, an observatory satellite, is to study the impact of the Sun on the Earth.
The ESA launched Ulysses in October 1990 to study the environment of space above and below the poles of the Sun. ESA launched the Proba-2 in October 2001, apart from other solar exploration missions launched in collaboration with the NASA and JAXA.
Proba-2 is the second of the Proba series, building on nearly eight years of successful Proba-1 experience, even as Proba-1 was not a solar exploratory mission.
There were four experiments on-board Proba-2 with two of them being solar observation experiments. Proba stands for Project for On-Board Autonomy. Upcoming solar missions of the ESA include Proba-3, scheduled for 2024 and Smile, scheduled for 2025.
The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) was successfully launched by the National Space Science Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), on October 8, 2022.