The 2012 Earth-Orbiting Heliophysics Fleet

  • Released Thursday, September 20th, 2012
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:02AM
  • ID: 3969

Since Sentinels of the Heliosphere in 2008, there have been a few new missions, and a few missions have been shut down. As of Fall of 2012, here's a tour of the NASA Near-Earth Heliophysics fleet, covering the space from near-Earth orbit out to the orbit of the Moon.
Revision (November 9, 2012): The RBSP mission has been renamed the Van Allen Probes. NASA Press Release.

The satellite orbits are color coded for their observing program:
  • Magenta: TIM (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere) observations
  • Yellow: solar observations and imagery
  • Cyan: Geospace and magnetosphere
  • Violet: Heliospheric observations

Near-Earth Fleet:

  • Hinode: Observes the Sun in multiple wavelengths up to x-rays. SVS page
  • RHESSI : Observes the Sun in x-rays and gamma-rays. SVS page
  • TIMED: Studies the upper layers (40-110 miles up) of the Earth's atmosphere.
  • FAST: Measures particles and fields in regions where aurora form.
  • CINDI: Measures interactions of neutral and charged particles in the ionosphere.
  • SORCE: Monitors solar intensity across a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • AIM: Images and measures noctilucent clouds. SVS page
  • RBSP: (Renamed the Van Allen Probes) Designed to study the impact of space weather on Earth's radiation belts. SVS page

Geosynchronous Fleet:

  • SDO: Solar Dynamics Observatory keeps the Sun under continuous observation at 16 megapixel resolution.
  • GOES: The newest GOES satellites include a solar X-ray imager operated by NOAA.

Geospace Fleet:

  • Geotail: Conducts measurements of electrons and ions in the Earth's magnetotail.
  • Cluster: This is a group of four satellites which fly in formation to measure how particles and fields in the magnetosphere vary in space and time. SVS page
  • THEMIS: This is a fleet of three satellites to study how magnetospheric instabilities produce substorms. Two of the original five satellites were moved into lunar orbit to become ARTEMIS. SVS page
  • IBEX: The Interstellar Boundary Explorer measures the flux of neutral atoms from the heliopause.

Lunar Orbiting Fleet

  • ARTEMIS: Two of the THEMIS satellites were moved into lunar orbit to study the interaction of the Earth's magnetosphere with the Moon.

Note: A number of near-Earth missions had their orbits generated from Two-Line orbital elements valid in July 2012. Orbit perturbations since then may result in significant deviation from the actual satellite position for the time frame of this visualization.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


This visualization can be found in the following series:

Datasets used in this visualization

DE421 (A.K.A. JPL DE421)
Ephemeris NASA/JPL 2012-08-01 to 2012-12-31
STK Ephemeris (A.K.A. Satellite ToolKit Ephemeris)
Ephemeris STK SDO: 2012-07-31 to 2013-02-28
Space-Track TLE (A.K.A. Space-Track Two-Line Elements)
Ephemeris NORAD AIM, C/NOFS, FAST, TIMED, GOES, Hinode, RHESSI, SORCE: 2012-07-18

Satellite ephemerides

Dataset can be found at:

See more visualizations using this data set
SPICE Ephemerides (A.K.A. SPICE Ephemerides)
Ephemeris NASA/JPL IBEX: 2012-07-31 to 2012-12-31

Satellite and planetary ephemerides

See more visualizations using this data set
SSCweb ephemerides (A.K.A. SSCweb)
Ephemeris NASA/GSFC Space Physics Data Facility Geotail, Cluster, THEMIS, ARTEMIS, RBSP: 2012-07-31 to 2012-12-31

Satellite ephemerides

Dataset can be found at:

See more visualizations using this data set

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.