Three Nations, One Space Mission: AMPTE

Twenty-five years ago yesterday* — August 16, 1984 — a Delta rocket launched from Cape Canaveral carrying three different satellites known as the Active Magnetospheric Particle Tracer Explorers, or AMPTE. The three spacecraft were:

  • The U.S.-built Charge Composition Explorer
  • The Federal Republic of Germany’s Ion Release Module
  • And the mysteriously-named United Kingdom Satellite

One interesting feature of the mission were “active ion releases” by the German spacecraft:

two releases of clouds of lithium ions in the solar wind in front of the magnetosphere (September 11 and 20, 1984), barium “artificial comet” releases in the dawn and dusk magnetosheaths (December 27, 1984 and July 18, 1985), and two each releases of lithium and barium ions in the near magnetotail (March 21; April 11, 23; May 13, 1985)

to study the interactions between the cool injected material and the “hot, magnetized, rapidly flowing natural plasmas of the magnetosphere and solar wind.”

For more on the U.S. part of the mission, visit the AMPTE/CCE Science Data Center.


*Yes, I realize I’m late with this space history item. Sundays are busy days for me, and yesterday was busier than usual, so I didn’t get it done. If you’re curious about why Sundays are so busy for me, I refer you to this blog entry (and especially the associated free download).

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