WIRE (Wide-Field Infrared Explorer)

WIRE (Wide-Field Infrared Explorer) was a SMEX (Small Explorer) satellite whose primary purpose was a four-month infrared survey of the universe, focusing specifically on starburst galaxies and luminous protogalaxies. WIRE experienced problems shortly after launch and ground controllers attempted to recover the spacecraft. However, the entire supply of frozen hydrogen needed to cool its main scientific instrument was released into space, ending the spacecraft's primary mission. Operations have been redirected to use the onboard star tracker for long-term monitoring of bright stars in support of two separate science programs: astroseismology and planet-finding. The astroseismology program is intended to measure oscillations in nearby stars to probe their structure. The planet-finding program searches for stellar occultations by large planetary bodies as they pass through WIRE's line-of-sight to its target star.


launch date Mar 4, 1999
launch vehicle Pegasus XL
launch site Vandenberg Air Force Base
orbit 540 × 590 km × 98°
mass 259 kg