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The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (Applied Physics Laboratory, or APL) is a not-for-profit university-affiliated research center (UARC) in Howard County, Maryland. It is affiliated with Johns Hopkins University and employs 7,200 people (2020). The lab serves as a technical resource for the Department of Defense, NASA, and other government agencies.
The History of APL Civil Space
Since the dawn of the Space Age, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has pushed the frontiers of space science, engineering and exploration. APL captured the first picture of Earth from space, invented navigation by satellite, dispatched spacecraft across the solar system from our Sun to Pluto and beyond -- and continues to shape the future by providing our nation with innovative and low-cost solutions to its space challenges.
MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) was the first mission to orbit Mercury, shedding unprecedented light on the origins and evolution of the innermost planet.
The first launch in NASA’s Discovery program, the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) was the first mission to orbit and land on an asteroid.
Van Allen Probes
A mission to explore Earth’s harsh radiation belt environment and the dynamics of geomagnetic storms.
A heliophysics observatory, the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) provides early warning of geomagnetic storms that can overload power grids, disrupt communications on Earth and present a hazard to astronauts.
APL balloon missions and instruments observe planetary targets and the interstellar medium, and conduct other space science investigations.
New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the distant region of planetary building blocks that hold keys to our solar system’s formation.
Parker Space Probe
Parker Solar Probe dives closer to the Sun than humanity has ever ventured to unlock the mysteries of our nearest star.
The Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission has provided 3D views of the solar corona, coronal mass ejections and the solar wind, and advanced space weather forecasting.
For nearly two decades, the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission has explored the gateway between Earth and Space.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is NASA’s first planetary defense mission.
Dragonfly is a NASA New Frontiers mission that will send a rotorcraft lander to explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
A mission to survey Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and determine whether it has conditions suitable to harboring life.
The Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission will study the boundary of our heliosphere.