Artist conception of FAST
The Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on board a Pegasus XL rocket on August 21, 1996. One in the series of NASA's Small Explorer (SMEX) spacecraft, FAST was designed to observe and measure the plasma physics of the auroral phenomena which occur around both poles of the Earth. It is operated by the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.
The explorer was launched few days before the launch of the Interball aurora probe, whose objective was to study the aurora processes in conjunction with another probe located in the magnetotail.
FAST supported the THEMIS mission in 2008 and 2009.
Normal operations ended on May 1st 2009. After that, some limited operations and engineering tests continued.