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Fact Sheet

 Fast Facts


Launch date: 02-Dec-1995 08:08 UT
Mission end: 31 December 2025 (subject to a mid-term review in 2022)
Launch vehicle: Atlas II-AS (AC-121)
Launch mass: 1850 kg
Mission phase: Operational
Orbit: SOHO is operated from a permanent vantage point 1.5 million kilometers sunward of the Earth in a halo orbit around the first Lagrangian point.
Achievements: Discoveries from SOHO include:
  • Complex currents of gas flowing beneath the visible surface of the Sun
  • Rapid changes in the pattern of magnetic fields
SOHO has:
  • Made the largest and most detailed database of solar surface features.
  • Become the most prolific discoverer of comets in the history of astronomy, although not designed for the purpose.

SOHO (SOlar Heliospheric Observatory) is a space-based observatory, viewing and investigating the Sun from its deep core, through its outer atmosphere - the corona - and the domain of the solar wind, out to a distance ten times beyond the Earth's orbit.

Mission Objectives

SOHO is designed to study the internal structure of the Sun, its extensive outer atmosphere and the origin of the solar wind, the stream of highly ionized gas that blows continuously outward through the Solar System.

SOHO is helping us understand the interactions between the Sun and the Earth's environment better than has been possible to date. Its legacy may enable scientists to solve some of the most perplexing riddles about the Sun, including the heating of the solar corona, the acceleration of the solar wind, and the physical conditions of the solar interior. It gives solar physicists their first long term and uninterrupted view of the Sun. This opposed to all previous solar observatories that were placed in an orbit around Earth from where their observations were periodically interrupted as our planet 'eclipsed' the Sun.

Mission Name

SOHO stands for SOlar Heliospheric Observatory.


SOHO is a three-axis stabilised spacecraft. It is made up of two modules: the Service Module that provides power, control, pointing and telecommunications for the whole spacecraft and support for the solar panels, and the Payload Module that houses all the scientific instruments.

  • Mass: total at launch 1850 kg payload 610 kg
  • Dimensions: breadth and width: 3.65 × 3.65 m, span with solar array deployed 9.5 m
  • Launcher: Atlas-IIAS
  • Mission lifetime: SOHO was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station on 2 December 1995, 08:08 UT, and was designed to observe the Sun continuously for at least two years, but is still observing!


CDS Coronal Diagnostics Spectrometer
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, United Kingdom
CELIAS Charge, ELement, andIsotope Analysis System
Universität Bern, Switzerland
COSTEP COmprehensive Supra Thermal and Energetic Particle Analyzer
University of Kiel, Germany
EIT Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, USA
ERNE Energetic and Relativistic Nuclei and Electron experiment
University of Turku, Finland
GOLF Global Oscillations at Low Frequencies
Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, France
LASCO Large Angle and Spectrometric COronagraph
Naval Research Laboratory, USA
MDI/SOI Michelson Doppler Imager/Solar Oscillations Investigation
Stanford University, USA
SUMER Solar Ultraviolet Measurements of Emitted Radiation
Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie, Germany
SWAN Solar Wind ANisotropies
FMI, Finland; Service d'Aeronomie, France
UVCS Ultra Violet Coronagraph Spectrometer
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, US
VIRGO Variability of Solar IRradiance and Gravity Oscillations
from ESTEC, The Netherlands


SOHO is operated from a permanent vantage point 1.5 million kilometres sunward of the Earth in a halo orbit around the Lagrangian point L1.

Operations Centre

SOHO is commanded from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland (USA). Its data are retrieved via the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN).

Last Update: 3 November 2020
8-May-2021 16:47 UT

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