IMAGE Blasts Off
27, 2000 -- NASAs newest space weather probe lifted
off March 25 from the Western Range at Vandenberg AFB, CA at
12:34 p.m. PST. The "Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global
Exploration" (IMAGE) spacecraft
separated from the Delta II third stage about 56 minutes after
launch and is now in an elliptical orbit, ranging from 1,000
kilometers to 45,871 kilometers above Earth.
"The skies cleared, then our hearts lifted with the IMAGE spacecraft; on time, on budget, on the start of a new era in space physics at the Earth," said onlooker Dennis Gallagher, a plasma physicist from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, who attended the launch along with other members of the IMAGE science team.
Right: Dennis Gallagher (NASA/MSFC) snapped this picture of IMAGE soaring into space aboard a Delta rocket on March 25, 2000.
"The spacecraft appears to be healthy with all systems performing nominally," said IMAGE project manager Frank Volpe at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "We are looking forward to a great science mission."
After the 40 day setup period, IMAGE will begin using its trio of neutral atom imagers, a far-ultraviolet imaging system, an extreme ultraviolet imager and a radio plasma imager to make movies of the magnetosphere. This unique approach will allow scientists to view, for the first time, the big picture rather than capturing limited, local measurements at far-flung points in space.
Stay tuned to Science@NASA for science updates from the IMAGE mission. Please see our earlier articles "Space Weather Mission Nears Launch." and "The RADAR Cop in Space." to learn more.
Right: An artist's concept of IMAGE in orbit. Click for IMAGE animations, courtesy of Goddard Space Flight Center.
IMAGE is NASAs first Medium-class Explorer (MIDEX) mission under the Agencys Explorer Program. The principal institution for IMAGE is the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, which has overall responsibility for IMAGE science, instrumentation, spacecraft operations and data analysis during its two-year science mission. SwRI's Jim Burch is the IMAGE Principle Investigator. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Division in Sunnyvale, Calif. built and tested the 1,089-pound (494-kilogram) spacecraft under a contract with SwRI.Web Links
IMAGE home page - from NASA/GSFC.
IMAGE home page - from the Southwest Research Institute.