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IBEX Mission to Our Solar System

Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Rocket
Launch Site: Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll
NASA Center: Goddard Space Flight Center
Spacecraft Mass: 38.7kg
Maximum Power: 37.9 watts

Southwest Research Institute IBEX page,

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission, or IBEX, is the first spacecraft to image and map dynamic interactions taking place in the outer solar system.

Just as an impressionist artist makes an image from countless tiny strokes of paint, IBEX buildd an image of the outer boundary of the solar system from impacts on the spacecraft by high-speed particles called energetic neutral atoms. These particles are created in the boundary region when the 1-million mph solar wind blows out in all directions from the Sun and plows into the gas of interstellar space. This region is important to study because it shields many of the dangerous cosmic rays that would flood the space around Earth.

Previously, no spacecraft had made an image of the interaction at the edge of our solar system where the solar wind collides with interstellar space. For space scientists, the map will be a lot like getting the first weather satellite images was for meteorologists on Earth.

IBEX is the latest in NASA's series of low-cost, rapidly developed Small Explorers spacecraft. The Southwest Research Institute developed the IBEX mission with a team of national and international partners. Goddard manages the Explorers Program for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Key Dates
19 Oct 2008:  Launch
Status: In Flight
Fast Facts
IBEX Facts IBEX was carried into orbit by a Pegasus XL rocket launched from an L-1011 aircraft (right).

IBEX data will be used in conjunction with data colleced by the twin Voyager spacecraft as they travel out of our solar system.

IBEX is part of NASA's low-cost Explorer program.

Unlike many satellites in space that collect light, IBEX collects particles.

The satellite spins as it orbits so that over the course of six months, each sensor has the opportunity to collect particles from every part of the sky.

The spacecraft keeps track of the area the particles came when they entered the sensor, their mass and the amount of energy in each of them. This allows scientists to build a map (above).
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Last Updated: 7 Jun 2015