Five THEMIS satellites
  • Explorer 85 - THEMIS-A - THEMIS-P5 - MIDEX-5A
    * Explorer 86 - THEMIS-B (ARTEMIS-P1) - THEMIS-P1 - MIDEX-5B
    * Explorer 87 - THEMIS-C (ARTEMIS-P2) - THEMIS-P2 - MIDEX-5C
    * Explorer 88 - THEMIS-D - THEMIS-P3 - MIDEX-5D
    * Explorer 89 - THEMIS-E - THEMIS-P4 - MIDEX-5E
Mission typeMagnetospheric research
COSPAR ID2007-004 (A, B, C, D, E)
SATCAT no.30580, 30581, 30582, 30583, 30584
Mission durationPlanned: 2 years
Elapsed: 17 years, 4 months and 22 days
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftExplorer LXXXV
Spacecraft typeTime History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms
ManufacturerSwales Aerospace
Launch mass126 kg (each)[1]
Power37 watts (each)
Start of mission
Launch date17 February 2007, 23:01:00 UTC
RocketDelta II 7925-10C (Delta 323)
Launch siteCape Canaveral, SLC-17B
ContractorBoeing Defense, Space & Security
Entered service4 December 2007
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit[2]
RegimeHighly Elliptical Orbit
Perigee altitude470 km (290 mi)
Apogee altitude87,330 km (54,260 mi)
Period1870.00 minutes
Electric Field Instruments (EFI)
Electrostatic Analyzer (ESA)
Fluxgate magnetometer (FGM)
Search-coil magnetometer (SCM)
Solid State Telescope (SST)

THEMIS mission patch
Explorer program
AIM (Explorer 90) →

Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission began in February 2007 as a constellation of five NASA satellites (THEMIS-A through THEMIS-E) to study energy releases from Earth's magnetosphere known as substorms, magnetic phenomena that intensify auroras near Earth's poles. The name of the mission is an acronym alluding to the Titan Themis.[3]

Three of the satellites orbit the Earth within the magnetosphere, while two have been moved into orbit around the Moon. Those two were renamed ARTEMIS for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun. THEMIS-B became ARTEMIS-P1 and THEMIS-C became ARTEMIS-P2.[4] ARTEMIS-P1 and -P2 together comprise the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission.[5]

The THEMIS satellites were launched 17 February 2007 from SLC-17B aboard a Delta II launch vehicle.[3][6] Each satellite carries five identical instruments, including a fluxgate magnetometer (FGM), an electrostatic analyzer (ESA), a solid state telescope (SST), a search-coil magnetometer (SCM) and an electric field instrument (EFI). Each probe has a mass of 126 kg (278 lb), including 49 kg (108 lb) of hydrazine fuel.[7]

THEMIS data can be accessed using the SPEDAS software. Canada, Austria, Germany, and France also contributed to the mission.


Swales Aerospace, now part of Orbital ATK which is now part of Northrop Grumman, Beltsville, Maryland, manufactured all five probes for this mission. Each was built-up and tested at the Beltsville facility, before being delivered to University of California, Berkeley for instrument integration. Swales was responsible for integrating the BAU, IRU, Solar arrays, antenna, battery, and other components necessary for functionality. This was the second major satellite built by Swales, the first being the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) spacecraft, which continues to orbit Earth. Swales was also responsible for designing and building the Electrical Ground Support Equipment (EGSE) used for monitoring the probes during all phases of pre-launch activities, including use at the launch site.


After the installation of instruments at SSL, Berkeley, pre-launch testing including thermal-vacuum, vibration and acoustic tests, was conducted at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


The launch of THEMIS atop the Delta II 7925-10C launch vehicle, at SLC-17B, Cape Canaveral

THEMIS was originally scheduled to launch on 19 October 2006. Owing to delays caused by workmanship problems with Delta II second stages — an issue that also affected the previous mission, STEREO — the THEMIS launch was delayed to 15 February 2007. Due to weather conditions occurring on 13 February 2007, fueling of the second stage was delayed, and the launch pushed back 24 hours. On 16 February 2007, the launch was scrubbed in a hold at the T-4 minute point in the countdown due to the final weather balloon reporting a red, or no-go condition for upper-level winds. A 24-hour turnaround procedure was initiated, targeting a new launch window between 23:01 and 23:17 UTC on 17 February 2007.

Favorable weather conditions were observed on 17 February 2007, and the countdown proceeded smoothly. THEMIS successfully launched at 23:01:00 UTC. The spacecraft separated from the launch vehicle approximately 73 minutes after liftoff. By 03:07 UTC, on 18 February, mission operators at the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) of the University of California, Berkeley, commanded and received signals from all five spacecraft, confirming nominal separation status.

The launch service was provided by the United Launch Alliance through the NASA Launch Services Program (LSP).


The Fast Auroral SnapshoT Explorer (FAST) mission supported THEMIS in 2008 and 2009 before being retired.[8] FAST was a Small Explorer program (SMEX) mission launched in 1996.[8]

Mission status

From 15 February 2007 until 15 September 2007, the five THEMIS satellites coasted in a string-of-pearls orbital configuration. From 15 September until 4 December 2007, the satellites were moved to more distant orbits in preparation for data collection in the magnetotail. This phase of the mission was called the "Dawn Phase" because the satellites' orbits were in apogee on the dawn side of the magnetosphere. On 4 December 2007, the first tail science phase of the mission began. In this segment of the mission scientists will collect data from the magnetotail of the Earth's magnetosphere. During this phase the satellites' orbits are in apogee inside the magnetotail. The scientists hope to observe substorms and magnetic reconnection events. During these events charged particles stored in the Earth's magnetosphere are discharged to form the aurora borealis. Tail science is performed in the winter of the northern hemisphere because the ground magnetometers that Themis scientists correlate the satellite data with have relatively longer periods of night. During the night, observations are not interrupted by charged particles from the Sun.[9]

In 2007, THEMIS "found evidence of magnetic ropes connecting Earth's upper atmosphere directly to the Sun", reconfirming the theory of solar-terrestrial electrical interaction (via "Birkeland currents" or "field-aligned currents") proposed by Kristian Birkeland circa 1908.[10][11] NASA also likened the interaction to a "30 kiloVolt battery in space", noting the "flux rope pumps 650,000 Ampere current into the Arctic!"[12]

On 26 February 2008, THEMIS probes were able to determine, for the first time, the triggering event for the onset of magnetospheric substorms.[13] Two of the five probes, positioned approximately one third the distance to the Moon, measured events suggesting a magnetic reconnection event 96 seconds prior to Auroral intensification.[14] Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California, Los Angeles, who is the principal investigator for the THEMIS mission, claimed, "Our data show clearly and for the first time that magnetic reconnection is the trigger".[15]

Extended mission

On 19 May 2008, the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at University of California, Berkeley announced NASA had extended the THEMIS mission to the year 2012. NASA officially approved the movement of THEMIS-B and THEMIS-C into lunar orbit under the mission name "ARTEMIS" (Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon's Interaction with the Sun), which was revised to "THEMIS-ARTEMIS" in 2019.[5] In February 2017, THEMIS celebrated ten years of science operations. As of August 2017, the three THEMIS inner probes continue to collect valuable data on the Sun's interaction with the Earth's magnetosphere.


Not to be confused with Artemis program, a NASA attempt to return humans to the Moon by 2025, or the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service satellite ARTEMIS..

"ARTEMIS" redirects here. For other topics, see Artemis (disambiguation).

ARTEMIS probes in lunar orbit

In early 2010, ARTEMIS-P1 (THEMIS-B) performed two lunar flybys and one Earth flyby, and approached insertion into a Lissajous orbit around a lunar Lagrange point. Lunar orbit insertion was targeted for April 2011. ARTEMIS-P2 (THEMIS-C) completed a lunar flyby and was on the inbound leg of the first of three deep space excursions on its way to a Lissajous orbit and was targeted for lunar orbit in April 2011.[16]

On 22 June 2011, ARTEMIS-P1 began firing its thrusters to move out of its kidney-shaped libration orbit on one side of the Moon, where it had been since January 2011.[17] On 2 July 2011 at 16:30 UTC, ARTEMIS-P1 entered lunar orbit. The second spacecraft, ARTEMIS-P2, moved into lunar orbit on 17 July 2011.[18] Along the way, the two spacecraft were the first to achieve orbit around the Moon's Lagrange points.[17][19]

As of October 2019, both lunar probes are in stable orbits, and are expected to remain operational for a long time.[5]

Animation of THEMIS-B
Geocentric orbit phase
Trans-lunar injection phase
Lissajous orbit phase
Selenocentric orbit phase
  THEMIS-B ·   Earth ·   Moon


Aboard the spacecraft

Ground based

As the satellites monitor the magnetosphere from orbit, twenty ground stations in North America simultaneously monitor auroras. Ground station mission and science operations are being managed by the University of California's Space Sciences Laboratory.

Research results

The THEMIS instruments have been used to track whistler-mode chorus waves during can persist in periods of low geomagnetic activity.[21][22]

Lists of relevant topics

Other relevant spacecraft

See also


  1. ^ "ARTEMIS (THEMIS)". NASA's Solar System Exploration website. Retrieved 29 November 2022.
  2. ^ "Trajectory: THEMIS-A (Explorer 85) 2007-004A". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b "THEMIS (Explorer 85)". NASA. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 4 December 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Phillips, Tony. "Dead Spacecraft Walking". ARTEMIS mission site. NASA. Retrieved 28 June 2011. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c Johnson-Groh, Mara (7 October 2019). "Artemis, meet ARTEMIS: Pursuing Sun Science at the Moon". NASA. Retrieved 10 October 2019. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  6. ^ Justin Ray (18 February 2007). "Mission Status Center: THEMIS". SpaceFlight Now. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  7. ^ "SPACEWARN Bulletin, No. 640". NASA. 1 March 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2009. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  8. ^ a b FAST EPO News
  9. ^ Space Sciences Laboratory (2009). "Themis Orbits". UC Berkeley. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  10. ^ Cynthia O'Carroll (11 December 2007). "NASA Spacecraft Make New Discoveries About Northern Lights". Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  11. ^ Tony Phillips (20 March 2008). "Spring is Aurora Season". NASA. Archived from the original on 25 September 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  12. ^ Cynthia O'Carroll (7 December 2007). "Multimedia for the Press Event for THEMIS". Goddard Space Flight Center. Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  13. ^ Laura Layton (24 July 2008). "THEMIS Satellites Discover What Triggers Eruptions of the Northern Lights". NASA. Retrieved 2 December 2009. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  14. ^ Vassilis Angelopoulos; et al. (15 August 2008). "Tail Reconnection Triggering Substorm Onset". Science. 321 (5891): 931–935. Bibcode:2008Sci...321..931A. doi:10.1126/science.1160495. PMID 18653845. S2CID 206514133.
  15. ^ Tariq Malik (24 July 2008). "Secret of Colorful Auroras Revealed". Retrieved 2 December 2009.
  16. ^ Space Sciences Laboratory. "THEMIS News and Events". UC Berkeley. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved 9 April 2010.
  17. ^ a b Fox, Karen C. (25 March 2015). "First ARTEMIS Spacecraft Successfully Enters Lunar Orbit". The Sun-Earth Connection: Heliophysics. NASA. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  18. ^ Hendrix, Susan (25 March 2015). "Second ARTEMIS Spacecraft Successfully Enters Lunar Orbit". The Sun-Earth Connection: Heliophysics. NASA. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  19. ^ Broschart, S. B. (2009). Preliminary Trajectory Design for the ARTEMIS Lunar Mission (PDF). AAS/AIAA Astrodynamics Specialists Meeting. 09-382. Pittsburg.
  20. ^ a b "THEMIS - eoPortal Directory - Satellite Missions". Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  21. ^ Li, Wen; Thorne, R. M.; Angelopoulos, V.; Bortnik, J.; Cully, C. M.; Ni, B.; LeContel, O.; Roux, A.; Auster, U.; Magnes, W. (7 May 2009). "Global distribution of whistler-mode chorus waves observed on the THEMIS spacecraft". Geophysical Research Letters. 36 (9): L09104. Bibcode:2009GeoRL..36.9104L. doi:10.1029/2009GL037595. S2CID 120391902.
  22. ^ Li, Wen; Bortnik, J.; Thorne, R. M.; Angelopoulos, V. (2011). "Global distribution of wave amplitudes and wave normal angles of chorus waves using THEMIS wave observations". Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics. 116 (A12). Bibcode:2011JGRA..11612205L. doi:10.1029/2011JA017035. ISSN 2156-2202.