Fundamental Technologies

Ulysses HISCALE Pages

Mission Overview

The Ulysses mission, a joint NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) project, is the first spacecraft to explore the previously unknown regions of space above the poles of the sun. The spacecraft was launched on October 6, 1990, by the space shuttle Discovery. In order to reach high solar latitudes, the spacecraft was aimed close to Jupiter so that Jupiter's gravitational field would provide the gravity assist to accelerate Ulysses out of the ecliptic plane, allowing it to fly over the south pole of the Sun in 1994 and over the north pole in 1995. With this first phase of its mission successfully completed, Ulysses embarked on a second orbit of the sun.  The second north polar pass was completed on December 10, 2001, and Ulysses then completed a third orbit of the sun, with its third south polar pass in February 2007 and its third north polar pass in early 2008.

The Ulysses spacecraft lasted almost 4 times its original expected lifetime of about 5 years.   As the spacecraft faces the gradual freezing of its fuel lines, scientists now consider the mission to be over.

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Last modified Sept. 29, 2009.
T. Hunt-Ward