A photo of the COSPIN instrument
Click on image for full size
European Space Agency

COSPIN Instrument Page

COSPIN 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.

Last modified March 7, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more


The rare arrangement of planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune in the 1980's made it possible for the Voyager spacecrafts to visit them over a 12 year span instead of the normal 30. They used gravity...more

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST found numerous...more

Apollo 11

Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the name of the first mission...more

Apollo 12

Apollo 12 was launched on Nov. 14, 1969, surviving a lightning strike which temporarily shut down many systems, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended...more

Apollo 15

Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more

Deep Impact Mission

NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program on July 7, 1999. The Discovery program specializes in low-cost, scientific projects. In May 2001, Deep Impact was given...more


The Galileo spacecraft was launched on October 19, 1989. Galileo had two parts: an orbiter and a descent probe that parachuted into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's main mission was to explore Jupiter and...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA