Magellan (spacecraft)

Magellan was active between 1989 and 1994 U.S. space probe that explored Venus Orbiter as.


Under the name of Venus Orbiting Imaging Radar ( VOIR ) and Venus Radar Mapper ( VRM) had already begun in the 70's and 80 reflections on a detailed mapping of Venus using radar, but were rejected by the U.S. government as too expensive. Under the name of Magellan, named after the Portuguese explorers of the 16th century (first circumnavigation ) Finally an affordable mission was planned, in which the probe was wearing only the radar Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR ). Technically, the probe was a hodgepodge of spare parts and spare parts of previous missions.

Previous radar mapping of Venus were:

  • Venera 9 and 10 ( USSR) in 1975 just for testing.
  • Pioneer Venus 1 (USA) in 1978 with a resolution of an average of 20,000 meters per pixel ( picture element ).
  • Venera 15 and 16 ( USSR) in 1983 with a resolution of an average of 1,500 meters per pixel.

In contrast, Magellan had a resolution of an average of 100 meters per pixel, which is an increase by a factor of 200 compared with Pioneer Venus 1 and at least by a factor of 15 compared with Venera 15 and Venera 16


The Magellan probe was a three-axis stabilized spacecraft. Both the main structure ( bus ) and the main antenna composed of the remaining parts Voyager program. The satellite dish served both as an antenna for the SAR as well as a communication antenna. In addition to the main antenna there was a horn antenna on the altimeter. The Magellan probe had eight small thrusters for orbit correction. The bullet in the Venus orbit was carried out by a droppable Star -48 rocket motor. The power supply of the probe is performed by two swiveling solar boom, which were deployed before leaving the Earth's orbit.


  • Magellan was launched on May 4, 1989 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis with an IUS rocket stage.
  • The probe entered orbit around Venus on August 10, 1990.
  • The radar mapping ran from 1990 to 1992.
  • In 1993, they were tested with the so-called Magellan aerobraking maneuver, the deceleration of a probe by flying through upper layers of the atmosphere of a planet. Conclusions were also characterized by density and composition of the gas atmosphere is possible.
  • Magellan died down on 12 October 1994 in the Venus atmosphere.


Magellan gave the Venus card that has since become a standard work, a total of about 98 % of the surface of 89 ° North to 89 ° South were recorded. The image of Venus on this page was created from the radar data of Magellan.