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The Solar Maximum Mission (SMM) was designed to provide coordinated observations of solar activity, in particular solar flares, during a period of maximum solar activity. The payload was made up of seven instruments, specifically selected to study the short-wavelength and coronal manifestations of flares. Data were obtained on the storage and release of flare energy, particle acceleration, formation of hot plasma, and mass ejection. Complementary studies were made as part of the SMM guest investigator program, and coordinated in situ measurements of flare particle emissions were made from the ISEE 3 spacecraft.

The SMM observatory was of modular construction and measured approximately 4 m in length, fitting into a circular envelope 2.3 m in diameter. The instrument module occupied the top 2.3 m and contained all the solar payload instruments together with the fine-pointing Sun-sensor system. Below the instrument module was the Multimission Modular Spacecraft (MMS) containing the systems for attitude control, power, communication, and data handling. Between the instrument module and the MMS was the transition adaptor, supporting two fixed solar paddles that supplied between 1500 and 3000 W of power.

Quick and coordinated responses to solar flares were considered essential for meeting the scientific objectives of the mission. Therefore, the ground system was designed to facilitate coordinated data evaluation, observation, planning, and command uplink to the on-board stored command processor. On-board coordination of response to a flare was performed in real time. The attitude control software allowed observatory repointings and slow scanning motions. There was also a special module for tracking a solar feature over many days.

A repair mission on STS-41C, during which Shuttle astronauts rendezvoused with SMM, was successful. SMM collected data until Nov. 24, 1989, and re-entered on Dec. 2, 1989.

For more details, see E. G. Chipman, Ap. J., v. 244, p. L113, 1981, and J. D. Bohlin et al., Solar Phys., v. 65, p. 5, 1980.

SMM data from the HXRBS, GRS, and UVSP instruments are now available via the World Wide Web using the URL:

Alternate Names

  • 11703
  • Solar Maximum Mission

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1980-02-14
Launch Vehicle: Delta
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 2315 kg
Nominal Power: 3000 W

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Solar Physics
  • Astronomy

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. H. Kent Hills



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. B. Ron McCullarProgram ManagerNASA Headquarters
Mr. J. Patrick Corrigan, IIIProject ManagerNASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Dr. J. David BohlinProgram ScientistNASA Headquarters
Dr. Joseph B. GurmanProject ScientistNASA Goddard Space Flight

Selected References

  • Chipman, E. G., The Solar Maximum Mission , Astrophys. J., 244, No. 3, L113-L115, Mar. 1981.

Related Information/Data at NSSDC

STS 41C (SMM Repair mission)

Other Sources of SMM Information/Data

SMM data from the Solar Data Analysis Center (SDAC)

[Solar Max]

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