When did we send the farthest satellite and what is its role and name ?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you including space probes in orbit around other planets in the system, or in relation to Earth? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ Do you really mean "satellite" in the sense that it has to be in orbit around a planet, or do you just mean the furthest space probe? $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2018 at 11:26
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    $\begingroup$ And are you asking for still active or dead crafts also fit xour question ? $\endgroup$
    – bookman B.
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 12:36

1 Answer 1


The term for orbits in our solar system around the Sun is Heliocentric.

Closed Heliocentric Orbit

The solar observation probe Ulysses is the furthest artificial satellite around the sun. It's in a highly inclined, elliptical orbit ranging from 1.35 Astronomical Units (AU) to 5.4 AU. It was a joint project by ESA/NASA launched in 1990 and decommissioned in 2009. The mission utilised a gravity assist from Jupiter to achieve its high 79° inclination.

It was the satellite with the highest aphelion in a purely heliocentric regime.

At the time of writing, Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx are both in heliocentric orbits with aphelia of ~1.3 AU. Both are on sample-return mission to different asteroids - 162173 Ryugu and 101955 Bennu respectively.

Ulysses orbital diagram

Planetary Orbits

We have sent many spacecraft to orbit other planets within the solar system, meaning they are technically in orbit around the Sun, but not heliocentric.

The most distant satellite currently in operation is Juno which entered orbit around Jupiter in 2016 and has been making atmospheric, gravitational and magnetic observations of Jupiter since. The Galileo probe also orbited Jupiter from 1995-2003. Jupiter orbits at an average of ~5.2 AU.

Until September 2017, Cassini was the most distant operational satellite in orbit around Saturn. Cassini's objectives included:

  • Mapping Saturn's rings
  • Observing the geology of Saturn's moons
  • Measuring Saturn's magnetosphere
  • Deploying the Huygens lander onto the moon Titan

Saturn orbits at approximately 9.6 AU.

Escaping Spacecraft

At a distance of 141 AU, Voyager-1 is the most distant man-made object from the Sun. Although also technically in a heliocentric orbit - a hyperbolic one - it would not usually be described as orbiting the sun.

Also escaping the solar system are Voyager-2, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and New Horizons.

Here is good list of all current solar system spacecraft.

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    $\begingroup$ I had no clue that Voyager was "only" order 100 AU away. It all makes sense once you list it. Incredible!! $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ Prior to being deliberately crashed into comet 67P, the Rosetta probe was in the same orbit as the comet, with a 5.68AU Aphelion; going slightly farther out that Ulysses. It's final transit orbit was slightly closer to the sun, so it might not have gone out as far as the other probe did. Unfortunately the only number I can find for how far out Rosetta went says 800m km (5.34 AU); but on a page that also states that figure for how far out the comet travels. It's not clear to me if the equivalency is an error, or just excess rounding of both numbers. $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2018 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/… $\endgroup$ Commented May 29, 2018 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ @DanNeely It looks like Rosetta’s final transfer orbit before encountering 67P had an aphelion of 5.25AU (page 8 here). You’re absolutely right though - after the encounter and its orbit was larger $\endgroup$
    – Jack
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ @chrylis, at an aphelion of only 1.66 AU, it's not setting any records. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented May 30, 2018 at 1:07

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