1. Flyby Spacecraft
Flyby spacecraft follow a continuous trajectory, without orbiting a planetary orbit. They must have the capability of using their instruments to observe passing targets, and ideally, compensating for the target’s apparent motion in optical instruments’ field of view. They must downlink data at high rates to Earth, storing data onboard during the periods when their antennas are off Earth point.
Examples: Stardust, Mariner 2, Mariner 4, Mariner 5, Mariner 6, Mariner 7, Mariner 10, Pioneers 10, Pioneers 11
A spacecraft designed to travel to a distant planet and enter into orbit must carry with it a substantial propulsive capability to decelerate it at the right moment to achieve orbit insertion. Orbiter spacecraft collect data from a planet while moving around it.
Examples: Messenger, Mariner 9, Cassini, TOPEX/Poseidon, Ulysses, Jason Earth Orbiter,
Mars Observer, Magellan, Galileo, Mars Global Surveyor
3. Probe Spacecraft
A Probe Spacecraft collects data from a planet as it drops into the planet’s atmosphere. These types of spacecraft usually use to take atmospheric pressure and temperature readings of a planet. Probes work for a short period of time and are destroyed usually on impact. Examples: Galileo Atmospheric Probe, Mars Balloon, Titan “Aerover” Blimp, Vega (Venus Balloon), JPL Planetary Aerovehicles Development,
Pioneer 13 Venus Multiprobe Mission
4. Lander Spacecraft
5. Surface Penetrator Spacecraft
Surface penetrators have been designed for entering the surface of a body, such as a comet, surviving an impact of hundreds of Gs, measuring, and telemetering the properties of the penetrated surface. Penetrator data would typically be telemetered to the mother craft for re-transmission to Earth.
Examples: Deep Space 2, Deep Impact, Ice Pick, Lunar-A
6. Rover Spacecraft
Examples: Sojourner Rover, Mars Exploration Rover, Apollo 15 Lunar Rover
7. Observatory Spacecraft
An observatory spacecraft does not travel to a destination to explore it. Instead, it occupies an Earth orbit, or a solar orbit, from where it can observe distant targets free of the obscuring and blurring effects of Earth’s atmosphere.
Examples: Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, James Webb Space Telescope, Next-Generation Space Telescope