The TRACE spacecraft mated to the Pegasus XL rocket on which it will be launched.
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Courtesy of NASA

TRACING the Sun...
News story originally written on April 2, 1998

The TRACE spacecraft was launched April 1st at 9:42 p.m. EST from the central California coast. TRACE stands for Transition Region and Coronal Explorer. TRACE will operate in polar orbit about 400 miles above the Earth.

This spacecraft has four telescopes aboard that are sensitive to the extreme-ultraviolet and ultraviolet wavelengths of light. Looking at these wavelengths, the TRACE will be able to focus in on the transition region of the Sun, that region between the cool surface (only 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit!) and the corona where temperatures are as much as 16 million degrees Fahrenheit.

The TRACE is being launched in a very timely manner...just in time for the solar cycle to reach its peak. TRACE joins in a fleet of spacecraft studying the Sun during this active time (like the ACE and Ulysses spacecraft).

"TRACE was completed on time, under budget, and met all performance goals," said Jim Watzin, Small Explorer project manager, NASA Goddard. "I'm really proud of this team. They have produced a magnificent observatory in a manner that saved NASA nearly $9.7 million." TRACE, which costs $49 million, is the third spacecraft in the Small Explorer series of small, relatively low-cost missions.

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