COSPIN Instrument PageCOSPIN is one of the instruments on the Ulysses spacecraft. COSPIN stands for the COsmic and Solar Particle INvestigation. The COSPIN instrument is actually made up of 5 different sensors: the Dual Anisotropy Telescopes (ATs), the Low Energy Telescope (LET), the High Energy Telescope (HET), the High Flux Telescope (HFT), and the Kiel Electron Telescope (KET). Pictures of some of these sensors appear here.
COSPIN is another of the instruments onboard Ulysses that is helping us make a map of the heliosphere. The Earth is of course inside the heliosphere, or the region of space influenced by the solar wind. Because the solar wind affects life on Earth, it is important that we understand the heliosphere and all of the particles within this region. COSPIN does just that. It collects data about the solar wind and about galactic cosmic rays within the heliosphere.
Spacecraft like Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 started making a map of the heliosphere. They've mapped to the outer planets and beyond! But, Ulysses has a special orbit that allows it to map areas no other spacecraft has ever been to.
The Ulysses probe was launched in 1990. It is still alive and well. The builders of COSPIN knew that Ulysses would be in space a long time and so they took special care to assure that COSPIN would be able to survive a long time in space. They also followed the ground rule of many spacecraft designers in that no single failure of any one sensor should result in the failure of another sensor. This assures us that useful data will be coming from COSPIN for a long time to come.