Exploring the Worlds of the Solar System

APL is a pioneer in the robotic exploration of the solar system. APL led the NEAR Shoemaker mission that captured the first close-up images of an asteroid, the MESSENGER mission that first mapped Mercury and the New Horizons mission that captured the first images of Pluto’s icy heart. They’ve provided a spectrometer to find ancient wet Martian environments and are building others to decipher the origins of Mars’ moon Phobos and the metal-rich asteroid 16 Psyche. They are leaders in the development of planetary particle and plasma investigations, conducting investigations of Jupiter’s powerful aurora and Pluto’s dynamic atmosphere. In addition, APL is building or contributing to the imager, spectrometer and plasma instruments to study Jupiter’s potentially habitable moon Europa. They’re helping to plan potential future explorations across the solar system and will lead, build and operate a nuclear-powered dual quadcopter called Dragonfly to study the molecular building blocks of life on Saturn’s moon Titan.


APL has designed, built and operated more than 70 innovative spacecraft over its six decades of spaceflight experience. Click below to learn about some of the missions that made revolutionary discoveries, and spacecraft that will push the boundaries of exploration and investigate outstanding scientific mysteries.


Scientists and engineers at APL have designed, built and operated more than 300 novel space instruments and methods to conduct cutting-edge research and make groundbreaking discoveries. Click below to learn about some of these instruments and their role in shaping our understanding of space and the solar system.


While APL may be known for engaging is space-firsts and building first-of-its-kind spacecraft that deflect asteroids or touch the sun, it also has a deep knowledge base of science and engineering experts who provide critical contributions to critical challenges. Through initiatives like Planetary Defense, Heliophysics and Space Weather, and Cislunar Operations, Space@APL is able to deliver game-changning impacts for civil and national security.


Go inside APL’s space missions and research, and check out the latest news, features and discoveries from the teams that are probing mysteries from the Sun to the edge of the solar system and beyond.