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Kind: Earth observation

State: Successful

Place: Earth

Operator: ISAS / NASA



Duration: 20 years (planned)

Mission Ending

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending." - Jim Henson


Rocket: Delta II 6925


Mass: 980 kg (2,160 lb)

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral LC-17A


"Requesting permission for flyby." Maverick - Top Gun


Reference System: Geocentric


"The journey, not the arrival, matters; the voyage, not the landing." - Paul Theroux

Geotail is a satellite observing the Earth's magnetosphere. It was developed by Japan's ISAS in association with the United States' NASA, and was launched by a Delta II rocket on 24 July 1992 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The primary purpose of this mission is to study the structure and dynamics of the tail region of the magnetosphere with a comprehensive set of scientific instruments. For this purpose, the orbit has been designed to cover the magnetotail over a wide range of distances: 8 R⊕ to 210 R⊕ from the earth. This orbit also allowed it to study the boundary region of the magnetosphere as it skims the magnetopause at perigees. In the first two years the double lunar swing-by technique was used to keep apogees in the distant magnetotail. This involved 14 lunar flybys. In 1993 the computer that controls the Low Energy Particles experiment locked up. Attempts to reset it failed. This problem was solved by changing the trajectory of the craft during a lunar flyby that took place on 26 September 1993 so that it passed through the shadow of the moon. Power from the batteries was cut while this took place. When the craft left the shadow of the moon, power returned and the computer started working again. The apogee was lowered down to 50 R⊕ in mid November 1994 and then to 30 R⊕ in February 1995 in order to study substorm processes in the near-Earth tail region. The present orbit is 9 R⊕ × 30 R⊕ with inclination of -7° to the ecliptic plane." Geotail instruments studied electric fields, magnetic fields, plasmas, energetic particles, and plasma waves. In 1994 the principal investigator of the Plasma Wave Instrument (PWI), the experiment complement, was Professor Hiroshi Matsumoto of Kyoto University, with co-investigators from NASA, the University of Iowa, and STX Corporation. Geotail is an active mission as of 2019[update]. Geotail, WIND, Polar, SOHO, and Cluster were all part of the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics Science Initiative (ISTP) project.