A very cool animation showing the orbits of NASA-related near-Earth science missions that are considered operational as of March 2017. These missions include both NASA-run missions as well as missions run by organizations that NASA has partnered with. Missions that enable science data collection (TDRS) are also included.

Colors are used to distinguish what science category each mission is observing. In some cases, one mission may observe multiple categories (e.g., DSCOVR observes the Sun and the Earth), so only one is chosen. The colors are:

  • Yellow orbits are missions that observe the sun (heliophysics)
  • Blue orbits are missions that observe the Earth
  • Red orbits are missions that observe the stars and planets (astrophysics)
  • Orange orbits are “other”
  • The green orbit is manned (International Space Station)
NASA’s Earth Science Mission Fleet: March 2017

The following missions are included:

  • ACE
  • AIM
  • Aqua
  • Aura
  • CALIPSO: Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation
  • Cloudsat
  • Cluster 5,6,7,8
  • Chandra
  • CYGNSS-1-8: Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System 1
  • DSCOVR: Deep Space Climate Observatory
  • GOES 13, 15, 16: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites
  • GPM: Global Precipitation Measurement
  • GRACE-1: Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment-1
  • GRACE-2: Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment-2
  • Hinode
  • HST: Hubble Space Telescope
  • IBEX: Interstellar Boundary Explorer
  • ISS: International Space Station
  • Jason 2
  • Jason 3
  • Landsat 7
  • Landsat 8
  • LRO: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
  • MMS 1,2,3,4: Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission
  • NuSTAR: Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array
  • OCO-2: Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2
  • Polar
  • QuikSCAT
  • RBSP A, B: Radiation Belt Solar Probes (also called Van Allen Probes)
  • RHESSI: Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Images
  • SDO: Solar Dynamics Observatory
  • SMAP: Soil Moisture Passive Active
  • SMAP: Solar and Heliophysics Observatory
  • SORCE: Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment
  • Suomi NPP: Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership
  • Swift
  • TDRS 3, 5-12: Tracking Data Relay Satellite
  • Terra
  • THEMIS: Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions During Substorms
  • TIMED: Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics
  • Wind

Also included:

  • Stars
  • Moon
  • Sun
  • Earth
  • L1: Sun-Earth Lagrange Point-1
  • L2: Sun-Earth Lagrange Point-2


  • NASA’s Earth Science Mission Fleet: March 2017 on NASA.gov
M. Özgür Nevres

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