Mission Critical Achievements

Adcole Sun Sensors have played an important role in hundreds of successful space missions that have helped scientists develop a better understanding of the solar system. Adcole provided sun sensors for all of the following programs:


Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to Saturn to study the planet and its many natural satellites. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2014. The Adcole Sun Sensor used on Cassini-Huygens was specially designed to withstand the high temperatures during flyby of Venus, survival of the ring plane crossing upon approach to Saturn, and to meet full accuracy at Saturn.


MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is a robotic NASA spacecraft orbiting the planet Mercury, the first spacecraft ever to do so. Messenger achieved 100% mapping of Mercury. The Adcole Sun Sensors that flew aboard the Messenger Program were specially designed to withstand temperatures up to +200◦C.

New Horizons

New Horizons is a NASA space probe launched to study the planet Pluto, its natural satellites and Kuiper Belt objects. Following a successful Pluto flyby in July 2015, it is now en route to selected Kuiper Belt objects. A specially designed Adcole Sun Sensor provides sun angle and spin phase data over sun distances from Earth to Pluto and beyond, representing a dynamic range of up to 3000. This was accomplished using multiple gain and variable thresholds in the processing.


Juno is a NASA New Frontiers mission to the planet Jupiter and is expected to arrive in July 2016. The spacecraft is to be placed in a polar orbit to study Jupiter’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere. The Adcole Spin Sun Sensor aboard the Juno spacecraft was specially designed to maintain accuracy over sun distances from Earth to Jupiter, including intense radiation and high planetary albedo when in Jupiter orbit.


Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) is a space probe designed to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. Mission goals include determining how the Martian atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time.

Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover)

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a robotic space probe mission to Mars which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover. The mission objectives include investigating Mars’ habitability, studying its climate and geology, and collecting data for a manned mission to Mars. The Adcole Digital Sun Sensor on the Mars Science Laboratory provided sun angle data for navigation from Earth to Mars, and for vehicle attitude upon entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Mars Exploration Rover (Spirit & Opportunity Rovers)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The mission’s scientific objective is to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. Like the Adcole Sun Sensor on the Mars Science Laboratory, the Sun Sensor on the Mars Exploration Rover provided sun angle data for navigation from Earth to Mars, and for vehicle attitude upon entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Mars Pathfinder

Mars Pathfinder (MESUR Pathfinder) is an American spacecraft that landed on Mars in 1997. Part of the mission was a “proof-of-concept” for various technologies, such as airbag-mediated touchdown and automated obstacle avoidance, both later exploited by the Mars Exploration Rover mission.

Mars Global Surveyor

Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was a US spacecraft developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. The Surveyor was on a global mapping mission that examined the entire planet, from the ionosphere down through the atmosphere to the surface.

International Space Station

The International Space Station serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars. An Adcole Fine Sun Sensor system is used aboard the Japanese Experiment Module (‘Kibo’), the largest module on the ISS.

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium and launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS vehicle to study the sun. The spacecraft is the main source of near-real-time solar data for space weather prediction. The Adcole Fine Precision Sun Sensor aboard the SOHO spacecraft serves as the primary pointing sensor, providing sub arcsecond resolution and better than 5 arcsecond accuracy. This extremely successful mission has been in operation for more than 20 years.

Solar X-ray Imager (SXI)

The Solar X-ray Imager aboard the GOES 12, GOES 13, GOES 14, and GOES 15 NOAA weather satellites is used for early detection of solar flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and space phenomena that impact human spaceflight and military and commercial satellite communications. The Solar X-ray Imager was the first X-ray telescope to take a “full-disk” image of the Sun, providing forecasters with the ability to detect solar storms and real-time solar forecasting by the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). The Adcole Fine Sun Sensor aboard the SXI provides sun pointing accuracy better than 2 arcseconds.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is a NASA mission which has been observing the Sun since 2010. The goal of the SDO is to understand the influence of the Sun on the Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.


The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) is a NASA-sponsored satellite mission that provides state-of-the-art measurements of incoming X-ray, ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and total solar radiation. The SORCE measurements are critical to studies of the Sun; its effect on our Earth system; and its influence on humankind. The Fine Precision Sun Sensor on the SORCE spacecraft provides sun angle data to an accuracy of better than 10 arcseconds.


The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) is a NASA solar observation satellite. The satellite’s mission is to investigate the physical conditions of the solar limb, particularly the chromosphere of the Sun.


STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is a solar observation mission that enables stereoscopic imaging of the Sun and solar phenomena, such as coronal mass ejections. This data permits NASA scientists to directly monitor the far side of the sun, instead of inferring the activity on the far side from data that can be gleaned from Earth’s view of the sun.


TRACE (Transition Region And Coronal Explorer) was a NASA space telescope designed to investigate the connections between fine-scale magnetic fields and the associated plasma structures on the Sun by providing high resolution images and observation of the solar photosphere and transition region to the corona.