What is the Timeline for the IBEX mission?

January 2005

Mission selected by NASA for development

Image Credit: NASA
In January 2005, IBEX was selected by NASA as a small explorer mission. It had competed with around 40 other missions to receive funding for a concept study report. Five missions were selected from that group of 40 to refine their plans, build and test prototype instruments and research any forseable complications. At the end of the concept study period, each of the five missions held a site visit for a committee of NASA reviewers. During that visit, reviewers toured facilities, viewed protoypes and reviewed detailed plans for the upcoming missions. After the site visit, only one mission was chosen for immediate funding (IBEX!)

December 2005 - January 2006

Mission Preliminary Design Review

IBEX Engine Model
IBEX flight system finite element mode  Image Credit: SwRI/IBEX Team
The IBEX Preliminary Design Review (PDR) was held at SwRI in December 2005 (Payload) and January 2006 (all other Mission aspects). Each of these PDR sessions covered design, planned implementation and requirements (factors that specify how various parts of the mission must perform in order to do the science required by the mission.) The Payload PDR covered the IBEX-Hi and IBEX-Lo sensors and Combined Electronics Unit (CEU). The Mission PDR covered the spacecraft bus mechanics, propulsion system, solid rocket motor, mission design & operations, and integration & testing.



March 2006

Confirmation Review

Rendition of the Heliosphere
Imaging the edge of our solar system...and beyond Image Credit: SwRI/IBEX Team
In mid-March the IBEX mission went through our official Confirmation Review at NASA Headquarters. The costs, schedule, and other programmatic issues were reviewed. The review went great and we were unanimously recommended for Confirmation. The IBEX Confirmation Review represents a major step forward and a real acknowledgement of both the hard work that the team has been doing and the great shape that our mission is in!


September 2006

Mission Critical Design Review

Engineering Test Unit
Complete Engineering Test Unit of TOF Electronics for IBEX-Lo  Image Credit: University of New Hampshire
In September we had our Critical Design Review (CDR), the major milestone that marks the end of designing and passage into the full build phase for all parts of our mission. It was a marathon 4-day meeting where the team presented essentially all aspects of our designs and plans to a group of about 20 independent technical experts. This committee identified some small concerns and potential improvements, but all-in-all, we passed our CDR with flying colors!


October - November 2007

Payload delivered to Orbital

In October, the IBEX Payload (the two sensors, IBEX-Lo and IBEX-Hi plus the Combined Electronics Unit) was ready to be integrated and tested with the rest of the spacecraft. These tests included functional, mass measurement, spin balancing, vibration and shock testing as well as Thermal Vacuum Cycling/ Thermal Balance tests. This testing took place at Orbital Sciences in Virginia.

IBEX Payload
At Orbital, the Payload is integrated into the Spacecraft (right) and ultimately with the Solid Rocket Motor (middle) and adapter cone (left). Image Credit: SwRI/IBEX Team

July 2008

Spacecraft delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base

L-1011 Plane
L1011 and Pegasus on runway.  Image Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation
At this time the spacecraft is connected to the solid rocket motor and they are integrated onto the Pegasus Launch Vehicle. The whole system is tested and then the Pegasus is mounted under the L-1011 plane that will fly everything to Hawaii and then Kwajalein.


October 19th, 2008

Launch from Kwajalein Island, Marshall Islands

NASA's Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission, or IBEX, successfully launched from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean at 1:47 p.m. EDT, Sunday. IBEX will be the first spacecraft to image and map dynamic interactions taking place in the outer solar system.

Check out this clip from the IBEX Launch!

Kwagalein Atoll
A view of Kwagalein Atoll from above. The airstrip that the IBEX mission launched from is visible covering much of the island area.  Image Credit: Dirk HR Spennemann, Digital Micronesia

February 1, 2009

IBEX Begins Science Phase

IBEX Spacecraft
Image Credit: Walt Feimer, NASA GSFC
After several months of checkout of the IBEX spacecraft, its various systems, and its scientific sensors, IBEX begins the science phase of the mission! Energetic Neutral Atoms (ENAs) coming inward from the edge of our Solar System are collected by IBEX's sensors. Every six months, IBEX collects enough data for the mission scientists to create a set of maps of our heliosphere.


October 15, 2009

First Heliosphere Maps Released

IBEX Data Map
This is one of the first heliosphere maps created using data from the IBEX spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Southwest Research Institute
The IBEX science team has released the first set of maps of our heliosphere! For more information, check out our archived Science Update.



August 17, 2010

IBEX Observes Closer to Home

Energetic Neutral Atoms Detected at the Nose of Earth's Magnetosphere
Image Copyright: American Geophysical Union; Image Credit: IBEX Team
IBEX scientists have not only been studying the edge of our Solar System, IBEX's sensors can detect atoms that are created when the solar wind interacts with the magnetic 'bubble' surrounding our planet Earth. For more information, check out our archived Science Update.






September 30, 2010

Second Set of Heliosphere Maps

Second IBEX Data Maps
Image Credit: SwRI/IBEX Team
The IBEX team has released the second set of heliosphere maps. What was most exciting for the science team was that changes were seen in the maps between the first and second sets. For more information, check out our Science Update.

March 2, 2011

IBEX Passes End of Prime Mission Review

IBEX Spacecraft
Image Credit: Walt Feimer, NASA GSFC
On March 2, 2011, the team in charge of the IBEX mission met at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to participate in End of Prime Mission Review, where the team showed NASA Headquarters staff what IBEX has accomplished during the first two years of the mission. A number of reports were given, including updates on how well we have achieved our mission objectives, the health of the spacecraft, an overview of the mission science, progress of the Education and Public Outreach efforts, and more. The team was happy to announce afterward that we passed End of Prime Mission Review! IBEX is now in the Extended Mission Phase, and the science continues!

January 31, 2012

IBEX Detects Interstellar Neutral Atoms

Interstellar neutral atoms entering from outside our Solar System
Image Credit: IBEX team, M. Paternostro (The Adler Planetarium), Dr. P. Frisch (University of Chicago), Dr. S. Redfield (Wesleyan University)
IBEX has measured hydrogen, oxygen, neon, and helium atoms drifting in from outside our heliosphere toward Earth's region of our Solar System. Atoms such as these are called "interstellar neutral atoms" or "ISNs." IBEX's measurements of interstellar hydrogen, oxygen, and neon are the first ever detections of these atoms by any spacecraft. Studying interstellar atoms can tell us a lot about the region outside our heliosphere and shows us how our Sun is interacting with material around it. To learn more about these exciting results, check out our Science Update. 


May 10, 2012

No "Bow Shock" for our Heliosphere

An artist’s rendition of our heliosphere, showing the Sun, the orbits of the outer planets and Pluto, the termination shock, the heliosheath, and heliopause. The bow shock has been crossed–out with an "X," representing the new IBEX findings.
Image Credit: IBEX Team/Adler Planetarium
One of the major research questions for the IBEX mission has been partially answered: our Solar System does not have a "bow shock" and instead has a "bow wave." What is a bow shock, how is it formed, and how did the IBEX team determine our Solar System does not have one? Read our Science Update and find out!


February 5, 2013

New IBEX "Ribbon" Model

This is a 3–dimensional diagram of the "Retention Region," with the region shown as a "life preserver" around our heliosphere bubble along with the original IBEX Ribbon image. The interstellar magnetic field lines shown running upper left to lower right
Image Credit: Adler Planetarium/IBEX Team
The IBEX Science Team has developed several scientific models to explain the "Ribbon," a ring–like region in the sky that shows up brightly in IBEX images. For the first time, a new model for the Ribbon explains some of the features that the scientists have observed. Is it the right model? We don't know for sure, but the science team is excited to investigate more and find out! For more information, please read our Science Update.






Image Credit: IBEX Team

July 10, 2013

IBEX Observes our Heliotail

IBEX has made the first observations of our Solar System’s heliotail. As the solar wind streams away from the Sun, it races out toward the space between the stars. The solar wind blows against material between the stars and clears out a cavity–like region in the ionized gas, called the "heliosphere." In the direction of travel of our Solar System through the Milky Way Galaxy, the "nose" or front of our heliosphere is curved, like a bullet. Opposite to the direction of travel of our Solar System is called the "downwind" direction. This is the direction of the heliotail. For more information, please read our Science Update.

September 5, 2013

IBEX Shows Interstellar Conditions May Have Changed

Curved ISM paths
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/UNH
IBEX observations of interstellar neutral helium, as well as observations from prior spacecraft, have shown that the incoming flow direction of interstellar helium atoms has changed over the course of the past 40 years. For more information, please read our Science Update.