The "Profile" Constellation Mission



"Profile" is a proposed multi-spacecraft mission to the Earth's magnetosphere. The original plan called for 12 small spacecraft sharing the same elongated ellipse and following each other one hour apart (as drawn above). This was later modified to 2 groups of 6 satellites each, on two slightly different orbits: the groups alternately overtake, then spread out, then overtake again. Each of these two "formations" is useful in its own way (as are in-between groupings).

For instance, when the formations overtake each other at apogee, a relatively compact "supercluster" is formed which can intensively cover a small region, e.g. the region in which a substorm begins. Because it is now believed that this is most likely to happen at a distance of 25 RE (Earth radii), the apogee distance, originally set at 20 RE, will probably be raised to that value.

At other times the satellites are strung out along the ellipse, allowing near-radial profiles to be derived of magnetic fields, plasmas and convective flows, which is the reason for the mission´s proposed name. This also enables the mission to time earthward progress, of shocks and waves from the sunward side of Earth and of substorm phenomena from the tail.

The 1997 Fall Meeting of the AGU, held in San Francisco December 8-12, included a special session:

Science Closure and Enabling Technologies
for Magnetospheric Constellation Missions

At that session, a talk and a poster on "Profile" were presented by D.P. Stern:

  • SM11C-09 Magnetospheric Multiprobes and the Art of Orbit Planning (invited talk)

  • SM12A-3 "Science Closure" of the "Profile" multiprobe mission (poster)
The chairman of the oral session, Dr. Vassilis Angelopoulos, later arranged the publication of a monograph on multi-satellite "constellation" missions, a collection of papers arising from presentations made at the meeting.

The monograph was titled "Science Closure and Enabling Technologies for Constellation Class Missions" (V. Angelopoulos and P.V. Panetta,editors; v + 151 pp., Univ. Calif., Berkeley, 1998) contains two articles on the "Profile" mission based on the above talks, on p. 66 and 136.  Both can be accessed from this web site:

Planning the "Profile" Multiprobe Mission

Science Tasks for "Profile".

The author welcomes comments and suggestions, to be sent to

Last updated 16 October 1998
Reformatted 12 November 1999