A Planetary Shield against the Sun

Earth's magnetosphere captures and accelerates charged particles from the Sun’s solar wind, producing spectacular aurora near the poles and perilous radiation through which spacecraft and astronauts must travel. And in the magnetospheres of other planets, these processes, radiation and auroras can be even more extreme.

APL scientists are dedicated to understanding the physics that govern magnetospheres. By probing data from space missions collected over decades and employing state-of-the-art models, APL scientists are unraveling the nature of exchanges happening both within a planet’s magnetosphere and among its magnetosphere, upper atmosphere, moons and the solar wind. APL has built and contributed to instruments and imagers that have visited nearly every magnetosphere in the solar system. And currently, the team is constructing instruments for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission and the European Space Agency’s JUICE mission to Jupiter, which has the harshest radiation environment in the solar system.

Missions

APL has designed, built and operated more than 70 innovative spacecraft over its six decades of spaceflight experience. Click below to learn about some of the missions that made revolutionary discoveries, and spacecraft that will push the boundaries of exploration and investigate outstanding scientific mysteries.

Instruments

Scientists and engineers at APL have designed, built and operated more than 300 novel space instruments and methods to conduct cutting-edge research and make groundbreaking discoveries. Click below to learn about some of these instruments and their role in shaping our understanding of space and the solar system.