Great Observatories program

NASA’s series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes. Each of the four missions was designed to examine a specific wavelength/energy region of the electromagnetic spectrum (gamma rays, X-rays, visible and ultraviolet light, infrared light) using very different technologies.

The four Great Observatories were launched between 1990 and 2003 and three remain operational as of 2018.

Great Observatories

1 . The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) primarily observes visible light and near-ultraviolet. It was launched in 1990 aboard Discovery during STS-31. A servicing mission in 1997 added capability in the near-infrared range.

2 . The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) primarily observed gamma rays, though it extended into hard x-rays as well. It was launched in 1991 aboard Atlantis during STS-37 and was de-orbited in 2000 after a gyroscope failed.

3 . The Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) primarily observes soft x-rays. It was launched in 1999 aboard Columbia during STS-93 into an elliptical high-earth orbit, and was initially named the Advanced X-ray Astronomical Facility (AXAF).

4 . The Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) observes the infrared spectrum. It was launched in 2003 aboard a Delta II rocket into an earth-trailing solar orbit; it was called the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) before launch.