Artist’s view of Venus Express probe in orbit around Venus. Image Credit: ESA - D. Ducros

Launch Date Nov. 9, 2005 | 03:33 UT
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia
Destination Venus
Type Orbiter
Status Successful
Nation Europe
Alternate Names 2005-045A, 28901

Goals

The European Space Agency's Venus Express was designed to study the atmosphere of Venus, from the surface to the ionosphere. The mission reused the same design as ESA's Mars Express and spare parts from other deep space missions.

Accomplishments

After arriving at Venus in April 2006, Venus Express logged many firsts. One of the most significant findings were signs that Venus had been volcanically active in the last three million years -- suggesting the planet may still be geologically active.

The orbiter also made extensive meteorological maps of Venus, providing measurements of wind fields and temperatures and the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The spacecraft found a striking double-eyed atmospheric vortex that dominates the south pole. It detected water molecules escaping into space, found concrete evidence for lightning in the Venusian atmosphere and provided infrared glimpses of the hot surface.

Venus Express, after running out of propellant, ended its mission in December 2014.

Key Dates

Nov. 9, 2005 | 03:33 UT: Launch

Apr. 11, 2006: Venus Orbit Insertion

Nov. 28, 2014: End of Mission

In Depth

Venus Express was Europe's first mission to Venus and explored this world for eight years. The mission ended in December 2014 after the spacecraft ran out of propellant. (Without propellant, it is no longer possible to control the attitude and orient Venus Express towards Earth to maintain communications. It is also impossible to raise the altitude further, meaning that the spacecraft will naturally sink deeper into the atmosphere.)

Venus Express had been on an elliptical 24-hour orbit, travelling 41, 011 miles (66,000 km) above the south pole at its furthest point and to within 124 miles (200 km) over the north pole on its closest approach. Venus Express was designed to study the atmosphere of Venus, from the surface to the ionosphere. The mission reused the same design as ESA's Mars Express and used spare parts from other deep space missions.

After arriving at Venus in April 2006, Venus Express logged many firsts. One of the most significant findings were signs that Venus had been volcanically active in the last three million years—suggesting the planet may still be geologically active.

The orbiter also made extensive meteorological maps of Venus, providing measurements of wind fields and temperatures and the chemical composition of the atmosphere. The spacecraft found a striking double-eyed atmospheric vortex that dominates the south pole. It detected water molecules escaping into space, found concrete evidence for lightning in the Venusian atmosphere and provided infrared glimpses of the hot surface.

Venus Express made use of two instruments originally built as flight spares for Mars Express and Rosetta, as well as two new instruments.

Spacecraft

Launch Vehicle: Soyuz-Fregat

Spacecraft Mass: 1,240 kg in total, including 93 kg of payload and about 570 kg of propellant.

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. UV and IR Spectrometer for solar/stellar occultation and Nadir Observations (SPICAV/SOIR)
  2. UV-visible-near-IR imaging spectrometer (VIRTIS)
  3. Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms (ASPERA)
  4. Venus Radio Science (VeRa)
  5. Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC)
  6. Magnetometer (MAG)
  7. High Resolution Infrared Fourier Spectrometer (PFS)

Additional Resources

European Space Agency: Venus Express

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Venus Express

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