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Remote Sensing

Satellite Ulysses officially retired

After more than 18 years studying the Sun's environment, the spacecraft Ulysses is being retired. Final communication with the joint European-US satellite took place on 30 June.

The long-serving craft, launched in October 1990, has already served four times its expected design life.

The ESA-NASA mission was the first to survey the environment in space above and below the poles of the Sun.

Data from the craft, published last year, also suggested that the solar wind - the stream of charged particles billowing away from the Sun - is at its weakest for 50 years.

"We expected the spacecraft to cease functioning much earlier," said Paolo Ferri of the European Space Agency (ESA). "Although it is always hard to take the decision to terminate a mission, we have to accept that the satellite is running out of resources and a controlled switch-off is the best ending."

Ulysses has already defied the odds several times. But its protracted mission has taken its toll. Ulysses' main transmitter no longer works and its back-up systems are also beginning to fail.

Last year, the space agencies finally announced that they were finally ready to pull the plug after the satellite's power supply had weakened to the point where the craft could no longer prevent its hydrazine fuel from freezing.

Read the full report from BBC News