The International Cometary Explorer (ICE) spacecraft was originally known as International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3) satellite, launched August 12, 1978. It was part of the ISEE (International Sun-Earth Explorer) international cooperative program between NASA and ESRO/ESA to study the interaction between the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind. The program used three spacecraft, a mother/daughter pair (ISEE-1 and ISEE-2) and a Heliocentric orbit spacecraft (ISEE-3, later renamed ICE). ISEE-3 was the first spacecraft to be placed in a halo orbit at one of Earth-Sun Lagrangian points (L1). It was later (as ICE) sent to visit Comet Giacobini-Zinner and became the first spacecraft to do so by flying through a comet's tail passing the nucleus at a distance of approximately 7800 km. ICE was not equipped with cameras.
An update to the ICE mission was approved by NASA headquarters in 1991. It defines a Heliospheric mission for ICE consisting of investigations of coronal mass ejections in coordination with ground-based observations, continued cosmic ray studies, and special period observations such as when ICE and Ulysses are on the same solar radial line. By May 1995 ICE was being operated with only a low duty cycle, with some support being provided by the Ulysses project for data analysis. Two years later, termination of operations of ICE/ISEE3 was authorized May 5, 1997. As of January 1990, ICE was in a 355 day heliocentric orbit with an aphelion of 1.03 AU, a perihelion of 0.93 AU and an inclination of 0.1 degree. This will bring it back to the vicinity of the earth-moon system in August, 2014