Space-Based Telescopes

1  Chandra Observatory

Deployed on July 23, 1999, from the Space Shuttle Columbia, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is one of NASA's four "Great Observatories" and its flagship mission for X-ray astronomy. Today, the science and flight operations of the Chandra X-ray Observatory are directed for NASA from SAO in Cambridge from the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). The Operations Control Center (OCC), under the direction of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, is also part of the CXC.

2 hinode

Solar-B, now renamed Hinode (the Japanese word for "sunrise") was launched on September 23, 2006, from Kyushu, Japan. Onboard the satellite was the X-Ray Telescope (XRT), a high-resolution grazing incidence telescope, designed and developed by a Japan-U.S. collaboration, which included SAO, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

3 Kepler

The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery satellite, is designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone for life. CfA was responsible for preparing the Kepler Input Catalog, which is being used by the mission to select optimum targets. CfA will also be involved in follow-up observations of interesting candidates identified by Kepler.


The Solar Dynamics Observatory, SDO, is the first mission to be launched for NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program, a program designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. SAO is a major partner in the mission, having built the four UV/EUV telescopes of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and delivered them to the PI institution, Lockheed Martin.

6 Spitzer Space Telescope

The last of NASA's Great Observatories, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), was launched August 25, 2003, and later renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope, in honor of the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr. One of three instruments onboard is the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), a joint project of SAO, Ames Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Arizona, and the University of Rochester.

6.5 TEMPO logo

TEMPO will be the first space-based instrument to monitor major air pollutants across the North American continent hourly during daytime. The instrument, to be completed in 2017, will share a ride on a commercial satellite to a geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometers above the Earth's equator.

(Under Development)

The Whipple mission, proposed for NASA's Discovery Program, expands the explored volume of the solar system by orders of magnitude and opens up the study of the presently invisible Oort Cloud to beyond 1000 AU. Whipple data enable investigations of planetesimal growth (the first stage of planet formation), the history of migration of the giant planets, and the interaction of the early solar system with the cluster of stars into which it was born. Operating for its 5-year mission from an Earth-Sun L2 halo orbit, Whipple monitors numerous background stars to detect the diffraction patterns created when small outer solar system bodies, far too distant for direct imaging, pass in front of the stars. SAO is the Principal Investigator institution, supports the science team and the user community, develops the Detector Assembly, and provides the Science Operations Center.