IMAGE Spacecraft Is Successfully Launched

Volume 16, Number 1, March 2000

By Joseph King and James Green

The Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) spacecraft was successfully launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base on March 25, 2000. Although there were high thin clouds, the Vandenburg crew got off the Delta carrying IMAGE within the first minute of the 8-min launch window. IMAGE attained its intended 1,000 km x 45,000 km, 13.5-hour orbit. The apogee point is at 40 deg geographic latitude, and the spacecraft will drift over the Earth's North Pole and back down to 40 deg in two years. IMAGE is Explorer 78.

IMAGE is a MIDEX class mission, selected by NASA in 1996 to study the global response of the Earth's magnetosphere to changes in the solar wind. IMAGE will (a) identify the dominant mechanisms for injecting plasma into the magnetosphere on substorm and magnetic storm time scales; (b) determine the directly driven response of the magnetosphere to solar wind changes; and (c) discover how and where magnetospheric plasmas are energized, transported, and subsequently lost during substorms and magnetic storms.

To fulfill its science goals, IMAGE will utilize neutral atom, ultraviolet, and radio imaging techniques. A suite of three neutral atom imagers (NAI) will provide energy- and composition-resolved images at energies from 10 eV to 200 keV with a time resolution of 300 seconds. Two ultraviolet imagers, covering wavelength ranges from 120-180 nm (FUV) and 30.4 nm (EUV), provide coverage in the far and extreme ultraviolet. A radio plasma imager (RPI) will transmit and receive pulses from 3 kHz to 3 MHz allowing relative motions of the satellite and plasma to be determined to a resolution of 400 m/s and a time resolution as good as 4 s.

The IMAGE project scientist is Dr. James Burch at Southwest Research Institute. SSDOO's Drs. James Green, Shing Fung, and William Taylor are members of the Radio Plasma Imager team (principal investigator: Dr. Bodo Reinisch, University of Lowell). Richard Burley of the Space Physics Data Facility within SSDOO led the team defining and building the ground data system.

IMAGE Level 1 data in Universal Data Format (UDF) will become publicly accessible from NSSDC in May 2000. Higher level data including browsable images will become accessible through the CDAWeb system. The IMAGE science Web page is at

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Author:Miranda Beall
Curator:Lori Persichitti
Responsible Official: Dr. Joseph H. King, Code 633
Last Revised: 16 May 2000 [NAB]