The Hubble Space Telescope.
Comparison between many space telescopes by diameter.
Overview of active and future telescopes.

This list of space telescopes (astronomical space observatories) is grouped by major frequency ranges: gamma ray, x-ray, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, microwave and radio. Telescopes that work in multiple frequency bands are included in all of the appropriate sections. Space telescopes that collect particles, such as cosmic ray nuclei and/or electrons, as well as instruments that aim to detect gravitational waves, are also listed. Missions with specific targets within the Solar System (e.g., the Sun and its planets), are excluded; see List of Solar System probes for these, and List of Earth observation satellites for missions targeting Earth.

Two values are provided for the dimensions of the initial orbit. For telescopes in Earth orbit, the min and max altitude are given in kilometers. For telescopes in solar orbit, the minimum distance (periapsis) and the maximum distance (apoapsis) between the telescope and the center of mass of the Sun are given in astronomical units (AU).

Legend
   Active telescopes
   Defunct telescopes

Gamma ray

Further information: Gamma-ray astronomy

Gamma-ray telescopes collect and measure individual, high energy gamma rays from astrophysical sources. These are absorbed by the atmosphere, requiring that observations are done by high-altitude balloons or space missions. Gamma rays can be generated by supernovae, neutron stars, pulsars and black holes. Gamma ray bursts, with extremely high energies, have also been detected but have yet to be identified.[1]

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Proton-1 USSR 16 Jul 1965 11 Oct 1965 Earth orbit (183-589 km) [2]
Proton-2 USSR 2 Nov 1965 6 Feb 1966 Earth orbit (191-637 km) [2]
Proton-4 USSR 16 Nov 1968 24 Jul 1969 Earth orbit (248-477 km) [3]
Small Astronomy Satellite 2 (SAS-B) NASA 15 Nov 1972 8 Jun 1973 Earth orbit (443–632 km) [4][5]
Cos-B ESA 9 Aug 1975 25 Apr 1982 Earth orbit (339.6–99,876 km) [6][7][8]
High Energy Astronomy Observatory 3 (HEAO 3) NASA 20 Sep 1979 29 May 1981 Earth orbit (486.4–504.9 km) [9][10][11]
Granat CNRS & IKI 1 Dec 1989 25 May 1999 Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km) [12][13][14]
Gamma USSR, CNES, RSA 11 Jul 1990 1992 Earth orbit (375 km) [15]
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) NASA 5 Apr 1991 4 Jun 2000 Earth orbit (362–457 km) [16][17][18]
Low Energy Gamma Ray Imager (LEGRI) INTA 19 May 1997 Feb 2002 Earth orbit (600 km) [19][20]
High Energy Transient Explorer 2 (HETE 2) NASA 9 Oct 2000 Mar 2008 Earth orbit (590–650 km) [21][22][23]
International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) ESA 17 Oct 2002 Earth orbit (639–153,000 km) [24][25]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer NASA 20 Nov 2004 Earth orbit (585–604 km) [26][27]
Astrorivelatore Gamma ad Immagini LEggero (AGILE) ISA 23 Apr 2007 Jan 2024 Earth orbit (524–553 km) [28][29]
Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope NASA 11 Jun 2008 Earth orbit (555 km) [30]
Gamma-Ray Burst Polarimeter (GAP) JAXA 21 May 2010 Heliocentric orbit [31]

X-ray

Further information: X-ray astronomy

X-ray telescopes measure high-energy photons called X-rays. These can not travel a long distance through the atmosphere, meaning that they can only be observed high in the atmosphere or in space. Several types of astrophysical objects emit X-rays, from galaxy clusters, through black holes in active galactic nuclei to galactic objects such as supernova remnants, stars, and binary stars containing a white dwarf (cataclysmic variable stars), neutron star or black hole (X-ray binaries). Some Solar System bodies emit X-rays, the most notable being the Moon, although most of the X-ray brightness of the Moon arises from reflected solar X-rays. A combination of many unresolved X-ray sources is thought to produce the observed X-ray background.

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Uhuru (Small Astronomy Satellite 1, SAS-A) NASA 12 Dec 1970 Mar 1973 Earth orbit (531–572 km) [32][33][34]
Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (ANS) SRON 30 Aug 1974 Jun 1976 Earth orbit (266–1176 km) [35][36]
Ariel V SRC & NASA 15 Oct 1974 14 Mar 1980 Earth orbit (520 km) [37][38]
Aryabhata ISRO 19 Apr 1975 23 Apr 1975 Earth orbit (563–619 km) [39]
Small Astronomy Satellite 3 (SAS-C) NASA 7 May 1975 Apr 1979 Earth orbit (509–516 km) [40][41][42]
Cos-B ESA 9 Aug 1975 25 Apr 1982 Earth orbit (339.6–99,876 km) [6][7][8]
Cosmic Radiation Satellite (CORSA) ISAS 4 Feb 1976 4 Feb 1976 Failed launch [43][44]
High Energy Astronomy Observatory 1 (HEAO 1) NASA 12 Aug 1977 9 Jan 1979 Earth orbit (445 km) [45][46][47]
Einstein Observatory (HEAO 2) NASA 13 Nov 1978 26 Apr 1981 Earth orbit (465–476 km) [48][49]
Hakucho (CORSA-b) ISAS 21 Feb 1979 16 Apr 1985 Earth orbit (421–433 km) [50][51][52]
High Energy Astronomy Observatory 3 (HEAO 3) NASA 20 Sep 1979 29 May 1981 Earth orbit (486.4–504.9 km) [9][10][11]
Tenma (Astro-B) ISAS 20 Feb 1983 19 Jan 1989 Earth orbit (489–503 km) [53][54][55]
Astron IKI 23 Mar 1983 Jun 1989 Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km) [56][57][58]
EXOSAT ESA 26 May 1983 8 Apr 1986 Earth orbit (347–191,709 km) [59][60][61]
Ginga (Astro-C) ISAS 5 Feb 1987 1 Nov 1991 Earth orbit (517–708 km) [62][63][64]
Granat CNRS & IKI 1 Dec 1989 25 May 1999 Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km) [12][13][14]
ROSAT NASA & DLR 1 Jun 1990 12 Feb 1999 Re-entry 23 October 2011.[65]
Formerly Earth orbit (580 km)
[66][67][68]
Broad Band X-ray Telescope / Astro 1 NASA 2 Dec 1990 11 Dec 1990 Earth orbit (500 km) [69][70]
Advanced Satellite for Cosmology and Astrophysics (ASCA, Astro-D) ISAS & NASA 20 Feb 1993 2 Mar 2001 Earth orbit (523.6–615.3 km) [71][72]
Array of Low Energy X-ray Imaging Sensors (Alexis) LANL 25 Apr 1993 2005 Earth orbit (749–844 km) [73][74][75]
Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) NASA 30 Dec 1995 3 Jan 2012 Earth orbit (409 km) [76][77][78]
BeppoSAX ASI 30 Apr 1996 30 Apr 2002 Earth orbit (575–594 km) [79][80][81]
A Broadband Imaging X-ray All-sky Survey (ABRIXAS) DLR 28 Apr 1999 1 Jul 1999 Earth orbit (549–598 km) [82][83][84]
Chandra X-ray Observatory NASA 23 Jul 1999 Earth orbit (9,942–140,000 km) [85][86]
XMM-Newton ESA 10 Dec 1999 Earth orbit (7,365–114,000 km) [87][88]
High Energy Transient Explorer 2 (HETE 2) NASA 9 Oct 2000 Mar 2008 Earth orbit (590–650 km) [21][22][89]
International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) ESA 17 Oct 2002 Earth orbit (639–153,000 km) [24][25]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer NASA 20 Nov 2004 Earth orbit (585–604 km) [26][27]
Suzaku (Astro-E2) JAXA & NASA 10 Jul 2005 2 Sep 2015 Earth orbit (550 km) [90][91]
AGILE ISA 23 Apr 2007 Jan 2024 Earth orbit (524–553 km) [28][29]
Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) NASA 13 Jun 2012 Earth orbit (603.5 km) [92][93]
Astrosat ISRO 28 Sep 2015 Earth orbit (600–650 km) [94][95][96]
Hitomi (Astro-H) JAXA 17 Feb 2016 28 Apr 2016 Earth orbit (575 km) [97][98][99]
Mikhailo Lomonosov Moscow State University 28 Apr 2016 30 Jun 2018 Earth orbit (478–493 km) [100][101]
Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) NASA 7 Jun 2017 International Space Station [102]
Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) CNSA & CAS 14 Jun 2017 Low Earth orbit (545–554.1 km) [103]
Spektr-RG RSRI & MPE Jul 13, 2019 Sun-Earth L2 [104]
IXPE NASA 9 Dec 2021 Low Earth orbit [105][106]
Lobster Eye Imager for Astronomy (LEIA) CSA 27 Jul 2022 Low Earth orbit [107][108]
XRISM JAXA & NASA 7 Sep 2023 Low Earth orbit [109][110]
X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) ISRO & RRI 1 Jan 2024 Low Earth orbit [111][112]
Einstein Probe CAS & ESA & MPE 9 Jan 2024 Low Earth orbit [113]

Ultraviolet

Further information: Ultraviolet astronomy

Ultraviolet telescopes make observations at ultraviolet wavelengths, i.e. between approximately 10 and 320 nm. Light at these wavelengths is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so observations at these wavelengths must be performed from the upper atmosphere or from space.[114] Objects emitting ultraviolet radiation include the Sun, other stars and galaxies.[115]

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Observing location Ref(s)
OAO-2 (Stargazer) NASA 7 Dec 1968 Jan 1973 Earth orbit (749–758 km) [116][117]
Orion 1 and Orion 2 Space Observatories USSR 19 Apr 1971 (Orion 1); (Orion 2) 18 Dec 1973 1971; 1973 Earth orbit (Orion 1: 200–222 km; Orion 2: 188–247 km) [118][119]
Far Ultraviolet Camera/Spectrograph (UVC) NASA 16 Apr 1972 23 Apr 1972 Descartes Highlands on lunar surface [120]
OAO-3 Copernicus NASA 21 Aug 1972 Feb 1981 Earth orbit (713–724 km) [116]
Astronomical Netherlands Satellite (ANS) SRON 30 Aug 1974 Jun 1976 Earth orbit (266–1176 km) [35][36]
International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) ESA & NASA & SERC 26 Jan 1978 30 Sep 1996 Earth orbit (32,050–52,254 km) [121][122]
Astron IKI 23 Mar 1983 Jun 1989 Earth orbit (2,000–200,000 km) [56][57][58]
Hubble Space Telescope NASA & ESA 24 Apr 1990 Earth orbit (586.47–610.44 km) [123]
Broad Band X-ray Telescope / Astro 1 NASA 2 Dec 1990 11 Dec 1990 Earth orbit (500 km) [69][70]
Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) NASA 7 Jun 1992 31 Jan 2001 Earth orbit (515–527 km) [124][125]
Astro 2 NASA 2 Mar 1993 18 Mar 1993 Earth orbit (349–363 km) [126][127]
Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) NASA & CNES & CSA 24 Jun 1999 12 Jul 2007 Earth orbit (752–767 km) [128][129]
Cosmic Hot Interstellar Spectrometer (CHIPS) NASA 13 Jan 2003 11 Apr 2008 Earth orbit (578–594 km) [130][131]
Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) NASA 28 Apr 2003 28 Jun 2013 Earth orbit (691–697 km) .[132][133][134]
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology Satellite 4 (Kaistsat 4) KARI 27 Sep 2003 2007 ? Earth orbit (675–695 km) [135][136]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer (Swift) NASA 20 Nov 2004 Earth orbit (585–604 km) [26][27]
Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) NASA 27 Jun 2013 Earth orbit [137][138]
Hisaki (SPRINT-A) JAXA 14 Sep 2013 [139]
Venus Spectral Rocket Experiment NASA 26 Nov 2013 reusable Suborbital to 300 km [140]
Lunar-based ultraviolet telescope (LUT) CNSA 1 Dec 2013 Lunar surface [141]
Astrosat ISRO 28 Sep 2015 Earth orbit (600–650 km) [95][94][96]
Spatial Heterodyne Interferometric Emission Line Dynamics Spectrometer (SHIELDS) NASA 19 Apr 2021 19 Apr 2021 Suborbital to 284.8 km [142]

UV ranges listed at Ultraviolet astronomy#Ultraviolet space telescopes.

Visible light

Further information: Visible-light astronomy

The oldest form of astronomy, optical or visible-light astronomy, observes wavelengths of light from approximately 400 to 700 nm.[143] Positioning an optical telescope in space eliminates the distortions and limitations that hamper that ground-based optical telescopes (see Astronomical seeing), providing higher resolution images. Optical telescopes are used to look at planets, stars, galaxies, planetary nebulae and protoplanetary disks, amongst many other things.[144]

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Hipparcos ESA 8 Aug 1989 Mar 1993 Earth orbit (223–35,632 km) [145][146][147]
Hubble Space Telescope NASA & ESA 24 Apr 1990 Earth orbit (586.47–610.44 km) [123]
MOST CSA 30 Jun 2003 Mar 2019 Earth orbit (819–832 km) [148][149]
Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer NASA 20 Nov 2004 Earth orbit (585–604 km) [26][27]
COROT CNES & ESA 27 Dec 2006 2013 Earth orbit (872–884 km) [150][151]
Kepler NASA 6 Mar 2009 30 Oct 2018 Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit [152][153][154]
BRITE constellation Austria, Canada, Poland 25 Feb 2013 - 19 Aug 2014 Earth orbit [155]
Near Earth Object Surveillance Satellite (NEOSSat) CSA, DRDC 25 Feb 2013 Sun-synchronous Earth orbit (776–792 km) [156][157]
Gaia (astrometry) ESA 19 Dec 2013 Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [158]
Astrosat ISRO 28 Sep 2015 Earth orbit (600–650 km) [94][95][96]
Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) NASA 18 Apr 2018 High Earth Orbit [159]
CHEOPS ESA 18 Dec 2019 Sun-synchronous orbit [160]
ILO-X ILOA 15 Feb 2024 Lunar surface [161]

Infrared and submillimetre

Main articles: Infrared astronomy and Submillimetre astronomy

Infrared light is of lower energy than visible light, hence is emitted by sources that are either cooler, or moving away from the observer (in present context: Earth) at high speed. As such, the following can be viewed in the infrared: cool stars (including brown dwarves), nebulae, and redshifted galaxies.[162]

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
IRAS NASA 25 Jan 1983 21 Nov 1983 Earth orbit (889–903 km) [163][164]
Infrared Telescope in Space ISAS & NASDA 18 Mar 1995 25 Apr 1995 Earth orbit (486 km) [165][166]
Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) ESA 17 Nov 1995 16 May 1998 Earth orbit (1000–70500 km) [167][168][169]
Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) USN 24 Apr 1996 26 Feb 1997 Earth orbit (900 km) [170]
Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) NASA 6 Dec 1998 Last used in 2005 Earth orbit (638–651 km) [171][172]
Wide Field Infrared Explorer (WIRE) NASA 5 Mar 1999 no observations Re-entered May 10, 2011[173] [174]
Spitzer Space Telescope NASA 25 Aug 2003 30 Jan 2020[175] Solar orbit (0.98–1.02 AU) [176][177]
Akari (Astro-F) JAXA 21 Feb 2006 24 Nov 2011[178] Earth orbit (586.47–610.44 km) [179][180]
Herschel Space Observatory ESA & NASA 14 May 2009 [181] 29 Apr 2013[182] Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [183][184][185]
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) NASA 14 Dec 2009 (hibernation Feb 2011 – Aug 2013) Earth orbit (500 km) [186][187][188]
CHEOPS ESA 18 Dec 2019 Sun-synchronous orbit [160]
James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) NASA/ESA/CSA 25 Dec 2021 SunEarth L2 Lagrange point [189]
Euclid ESA 1 Jul 2023 Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point [190][191]

Microwave

Further information: Radio astronomy

Microwave space telescopes have primarily been used to measure cosmological parameters from the Cosmic Microwave Background. They also measure synchrotron radiation, free-free emission and spinning dust from our Galaxy, as well as extragalactic compact sources and galaxy clusters through the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect.[192]

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) NASA 18 Nov 1989 23 Dec 1993 Earth orbit (900 km) [193][194]
Odin Swedish Space Corporation 20 Feb 2001 Earth orbit (622 km) [195][196]
WMAP NASA 30 Jun 2001 Oct 2010 Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point [197]
Planck ESA 14 May 2009 Oct 2013 Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point (mission)
Heliocentric (Derelict)
[184][198][199]

Radio

Further information: Radio astronomy and Very Long Baseline Interferometry

As the atmosphere is transparent for radio waves, radio telescopes in space are most useful for Very Long Baseline Interferometry: doing simultaneous observations of a source with both a satellite and a ground-based telescope and by correlating their signals to simulate a radio telescope the size of the separation between the two telescopes. Typical targets for observations include supernova remnants, masers, gravitational lenses, and starburst galaxies.[citation needed]

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Highly Advanced Laboratory for Communications and Astronomy (HALCA, VSOP or MUSES-B) ISAS 12 Feb 1997 30 Nov 2005 Earth orbit (560–21,400 km) [200][201][202]
Spektr-R (RadioAstron) ASC LPI 18 Jul 2011 11 Jan 2019 Earth orbit (10,000–390,000 km) [203][204][205]

Particle detection

Spacecraft and space-based modules that do particle detection, looking for cosmic rays and electrons. These can be emitted by the sun (Solar Energetic Particles), our galaxy (Galactic cosmic rays) and extragalactic sources (Extragalactic cosmic rays). There are also Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays from active galactic nuclei, those can be detected by ground-based detectors via their particle showers.

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Proton-1 USSR 16 Jul 1965 11 Oct 1965 Earth orbit (589–183 km) [2]
Proton-2 USSR 2 Nov 1965 6 Feb 1966 Earth orbit (637–191 km) [2]
High Energy Astronomy Observatory 3 (HEAO 3) NASA 20 Sep 1979 29 May 1981 Earth orbit (486.4–504.9 km) [9][10][11]
SAMPEX NASA / DE 3 Jul 1992 30 Jun 2004 Earth orbit (512–687 km) [206]
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 01 (AMS-01) NASA 2 Jun 1998 12 Jun 1998 Earth orbit (296 km) [207]
Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics (PAMELA) ISA, INFN, RSA, DLR & SNSB 15 May 2006 7 Feb 2016 Earth orbit (350–610 km) [208][209]
IBEX NASA 19 Oct 2008 Earth orbit (86,000–259,000 km) [210]
Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02 (AMS-02) NASA 16 May 2011 Earth orbit (353 km) on ISS [211]
Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) CNSA & CAS 17 Dec 2015 Earth orbit (500 km) [212]

Gravitational waves

A type of telescope that detects gravitational waves; ripples in space-time generated by colliding neutron stars or black holes.

Photo Name Space agency Launch date Terminated Location Ref(s)
Lunar Surface Gravimeter NASA 7 Dec 1972 14 Dec 1972 Taurus–Littrow [213]

To be launched

Photo Name Space agency Planned launch date Location Ref(s)
SVOM CNSA/CNES 24 June 2024 Low Earth orbit [214]
Xuntian CNSA/CAS 2024 Low Earth orbit [215][216]
SPHEREx NASA 2025 Earth orbit [217]
PLATO ESA 2026 Geosynchronous orbit [218]
ULTRASAT Israel Space Agency 2026 Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point [219]
Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope; WFIRST) NASA/DOE 2027 Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point [220]
ARIEL ESA 2029 Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point [221]
Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (Athena) ESA/NASA/JAXA 2035 Sun–Earth L2 Lagrange point [222]
Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) ESA 2037 Heliocentric orbit [223]

See also

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