NRL VAULT Very-high-resolution Advanced ULtraviolet Telescope


Mission Description


The Very high Angular Resolution ULtraviolet Telescope (VAULT) is a sounding rocket payload designed, fabricated, and flown by the Naval Research Laboratory Solar Physics Branch. The objectives are to obtain high spatial resolution observations of the Sun that will significantly increase our understanding of fine-scale structures and atmospheric heating, augment the scientific return from the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), and lead to the development of next-generation space instrumentation.


The first VAULT flight on May 7, 1999 outfitted with a Lyman-alpha spectroheliograph obtained the highest resolution (0.33 arcsecond) solar images from space to date. An analysis of the VAULT Lyman-alpha and the TRACE 17.1 nm images revealed a high correlation between the fine-scale structures in the two regimes but a large discrepancy in their emission levels (Vourlidas et al. 2001). This result places important constraints on coronal heating mechanisms. Also, the comparison of TRACE and VAULT Lyman-alpha images has led to an improved method for the removal of the continuum contribution from the TRACE Lyman-alpha images.The VAULT-I data are open to the public.

The 2nd VAULT flight on June 14, 2002 achieved higher sensitivity and obtained the highest resolution (0.33 arcsecond) solar images from space to date. A few papers (see publications ) have appeared based on the analysis of the VAULT data and the observations of a large campaign using ground and space-based telescopes. Other analyses are ongoing. The VAULT-II data are open to the public.

Research Plan

  • VAULT 1: First flight, proof of design specifications. Employ a coordinated campaign with space borne and ground-based instruments.

  • VAULT 2: Fix problems encountered during the first flight and improve system performance. Employ another coordinated campaign with solar instruments in space and on the ground.

  • VAULT 3: Fix problems encountered during the 2nd flight. Observe targets at the limb and coronal holes and coordinate another campaing with space and ground based instruments.

Relevance to NASA Programs

This mission supports the NASA Mechanisms of Solar Variability - Phase Zero (MSV-0), TRACE, and SOHO programs with high spatial resolution, spectrometric observations of chromospheric and transition region plasmas. It supports the development of new ultra-high resolution spectrographs as next-generation instruments for future space missions in solar physics.

    Very High Resolution Advanced Ultraviolet Telescope

2003 U.S. Naval Research Laboratory