Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk

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Instrument type Imaging Spectrograph
Function Observation of Earth's Thermosphere and Ionosphere
Mission duration 2 Years
Host Spacecraft
Spacecraft SES-14[1]
Operator SES S.A.
Launch date Q1, 2018 [2]
Rocket Ariane 5
Orbit Geostationary

The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission is a planned Heliophysics Mission of Opportunity (MOO) for NASA’s Explorer program.[3] Led by Richard Eastes at the Florida Space Institute, which is located at the University of Central Florida (UCF), GOLD will provide a new capability for imaging the boundary between Earth and space in order to answer key questions about the effects of solar and atmospheric variability on the Earth’s space weather.[4] GOLD was one of 11 proposals selected, of the 42 submitted, for further study in September 2011.[5] On April 12, 2013, NASA announced that GOLD, along with the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), had been selected for flight in 2017.[3]

Mission Concept[edit]

After launch, GOLD will perform a two-year mission, imaging the Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere from geostationary orbit. The GOLD instrument is a two-channel Far Ultraviolet (FUV) imaging spectrograph that will be built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, and will be flown as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite owned and operated by SES S.A..[6] The SES-14 mission is scheduled to launch in the first quarter of 2018 on an Ariane 5 rocket.[2] In June 2017 SES announced the successful integration of GOLD with the SES-14 satellite under construction at Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France.[7]

Additional organizations participating in the GOLD mission include the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Virginia Tech, the University of California Berkeley, Computational Physics Inc (CPI), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Boston University, and Clemson University.

Scientific Objectives[edit]

The scientific objectives of the GOLD mission are to determine how geomagnetic storms alter the temperature and composition of Earth’s atmosphere, to analyze the global-scale response of the thermosphere to solar extreme-ultraviolet variability, to investigate the significance of atmospheric waves and tides propagating from below the temperature structure of the thermosphere and to resolve how the structure of the equatorial ionosphere influences the formation and evolution of equatorial plasma density irregularities. The viewpoint provided by GOLD’s geostationary orbit – from which the same hemisphere is always observable – is a new perspective on the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This viewpoint allows local time, universal time and longitudinal variations of the thermosphere and ionosphere’s response to the various forcing mechanisms to be uniquely determined.[4]


  1. ^ Kossobokova, Natalia (2015-04-12). "SES to Host NASA Payload on SES-14" (Press release). Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  2. ^ a b Payer, Markus (2017-08-28). "SES Swaps SES-12 and SES-14 Launches" (Press release). Retrieved 2017-08-28. 
  3. ^ a b "NASA Selects Explorer Projects to Probe Earth's Upper Atmosphere" (Press release). NASA. 12 April 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Eastes, R. (2009), NASA Mission to Explore Forcing of Earth's Space Environment, Eos Trans. AGU, 90(18), 155–155, doi:10.1029/2009EO180002.
  5. ^ "NASA Selects Science Investigations For Concept Studies" (Press release). NASA. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  6. ^ "$55 Million Grant Makes UCF, Florida History". University of Central Florida. 15 April 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "SES-14 Integrates NASA Ultraviolet Space Spectrograph" (Press release). SES. May 23, 2017. Retrieved June 7, 2017. 

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