The Orbit of Ulysses
Ulysses was launched in October 1990. Ulysses was launched from the STS-41 mission of the space shuttle Discovery. Two Inertial Upper Stages (IUS) and a mission-specific Payload Assist Module (PAM) combined together to send Ulysses toward its out-of-ecliptic trajectory. To reach this out-of-ecliptic trajectory, Ulysses was sent out to the planet Jupiter, whose immense gravity was used to deflect the spacecraft in a slingshot fashion into a highly inclined orbit (80 degrees inclined to the ecliptic). The spacecraft reached the Sun's south pole in June 1994. Ulysses continued its orbit around the Sun reaching the north pole in June 1995. Ulysses has now embarked on its second orbit of the Sun. The spacecraft will make polar passes in the years 2000 and 2001. Ulysses' out-of-ecliptic orbit has a period of 6.2 years, approximately half of a solar cycle.
The Ulysses mission is presently approved to continue operating and collecting data through December 2001. With the approval of NASA and ESA, operations may be extended for several more years.
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