VSOP, the VLBI Space Observatory Programme, is a Japanese-led mission to place an 8-metre radio antenna into orbit to serve as the space-borne element for space VLBI. The VSOP satellite was launched on 12 February 1997 (Universal Time) by ISAS, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, and renamed HALCA. Its elliptical orbit sweeps out a range of interferometer baselines to ground antennas. At apogee the baseline is approximately three times larger than can be currently achieved with Earth-based, global VLBI observations. At 5GHz the VSOP mission allows imaging at resolutions lower than a milli-arcsecond; approximately a hundred times better than the resolution achieved by the Hubble Space Telescope.
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