Ulysses Ulysses trajectory

This figure shows the solar distance and latitude of Ulysses from launch in October 1990 until mid-1997.

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There are several obvious "phases" to the orbit:
In-ecliptic cruise
From launch in October 1990 until February 1992, Ulysses travelled rapidly away from the Sun, approximately in the plane of the ecliptic. Solar activity during this time was high: this is obvious from the magnetic field magnitude plot for the mission.
Slow traversal South
In February 1992, Ulysses passed close to Jupiter, performing a gravity assist manoeuvre which transferred it into an eccentric polar solar orbit. Between this time and September 1994, Ulysses travelled progressively further South and closer to the Sun, reaching 80°S at around 2.4 AU from the Sun. Solar activity declined during this time.
Fast latitude scan
After reaching 80°S in September 1994, Ulysses moved very rapidly Northwards, through the ecliptic and back to 80°N in late 1996. This phase of the mission provided a rapid "snapshot" of the latitude dependence of the heliosphere at a relatively constant solar distance.
Back to the ecliptic
Ulysses is now travelling back towards the ecliptic, ready for another solar orbit over the next 5 years. You can find the current position of the spacecraft.

This figure may be freely copied and reproduced, for example as a transparency, but not published. Please contact us at Imperial College if you wish to use this data in a publication.
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Last changed 25th July 1997 by Tim Horbury.