Basics of
Spaceflight Banner

Spacecraft Information


diagram of Magellan components

Classification: Orbiter spacecraft.

Mission: Venus mapping.

Features: The Magellan spacecraft was launched in early 1989 via the Space Shuttle Atlantis and an IUS upper stage. By the end of its fourth Venus-rotation cycle (243 days each) four years after launch, Magellan had mapped 98% the surface of Venus with imaging, altimetry, and radiometry, performed several radio science experiments, and had surveyed the gravity field at low latitudes all the way around the planet. The imaging resolution was about 100 m, close enough to discern the various geologic processes for the first time. Magellan's periapsis was lowered into Venus's atmosphere for a thousand orbits, aerobraking into a nearly circular orbit. Magellan's periapsis was then raised out of the atmosphere, and it completed high-resolution mapping of the planet's gravity field from low circular orbit. Magellan was then intentionally flown to its destruction in Venus's atmosphere in October 1994, all the while carrying out additional experiments.

Stabilization: Three-axis stabilized via reaction wheels and thrusters.

Also see: Magellan Project Website.