Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer

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Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer
Illustration of FAST
Names Explorer-70, SMEX-2
Mission type Auroral plasma physics
Operator NASA / Goddard
Space Sciences Laboratory
COSPAR ID 1996-049A
SATCAT no. 24285
Mission duration Planned: 1 year[1]
Final: 12 years, 8 months, 9 days[2]
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer NASA / Goddard
Launch mass 191.3 kg (421.7 lb)[3]
Payload mass 65.3 kg (144.0 lb)[3]
Dimensions 1.02 × 0.93 m (3.3 × 3.1 ft)[1]
Power 52 W[4]
Start of mission
Launch date August 21, 1996, 09:47 (1996-08-21UTC09:47) UTC
Rocket Pegasus XL
Launch site Stargazer
Vandenberg AFB, California, U.S.
Contractor Orbital Sciences
End of mission
Disposal Decommissioned
Deactivated May 1, 2009 (2009-06)[2]
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Semi-major axis 8,300.4 km (5,157.6 mi)
Eccentricity 0.1898
Perigee 346.8 km (215.5 mi)
Apogee 3,497.8 km (2,173.4 mi)
Inclination 82.9680°
Period 125.4333 min
RAAN 340.7268°
Argument of perigee 109.0590°
Mean anomaly 272.4924°
Mean motion 11.4802 rev/day
Epoch September 5, 2015, 03:48:35 UTC[5]

FAST logo.png


The Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) is a NASA plasma physics satellite, and is the second spacecraft in the Small Explorer program. It was launched on August 21, 1996, from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a Pegasus XL rocket. The spacecraft was designed and built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Flight operations were handled by Goddard for the first three years, and thereafter were transferred to the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.[3]

FAST was designed to observe and measure the plasma physics of the auroral phenomena which occur around both of Earth's poles.[6] While its Electric Field Experiment failed around 2002, all other instruments continued to operate normally until science operations were ended on May 1, 2009.[2] Various engineering tests were conducted afterward.[2]


  • Electrostatic Analyzers (ESA): measured electron and ion distribution[6]
  • Time-of-flight Energy Angle Mass Spectrograph (TEAMS): measured three-dimensional distribution of major ion species[6]
  • Tri-Axial Fluxgate and Search-coil Magnetometers: measured magnetic field data[6]
  • Electric Field and Langmuir Probe Experiment: measured electric field data, plasma density and temperature[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "FAST Facts". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d "News & Events". FAST Education and Public Outreach. University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Pfaff, R.; et al. (August 2001). "An Overview of the Fast Auroral SnapshoT (FAST) Satellite" (PDF). Space Science Reviews. 98 (1/2): 1–32. Bibcode:2001SSRv...98....1P. doi:10.1023/A:1013187826070. 
  4. ^ "Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer". Goddard Space Flight Center. Archived from the original on June 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ "FAST - Orbit". Heavens Above. September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "FAST". National Space Science Data Center. NASA. Retrieved September 5, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to FAST at Wikimedia Commons