The International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) was the first experiment to explore the full range of ultraviolet radiation from the universe. The IUE was a satellite sponsored and operated jointly by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United Kingdom's Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC) and the European Space Agency (ESA), and dedicated to gathering astronomical data in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum. The IUE was launched by a Thor-Delta rocket on January 26, 1978 and placed into a geosynchronous orbit around the Earth. It carried a 45-centimeter Cassegrain reflecting telescope with two spectrographs, collected spectral data in real time and was capable of being operated by a visiting astronomer at one of two ground stations: in Madrid, Spain, and at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The observer could perform preliminary evaluation and analysis during the observing session, operating the system much like a modern ground-based telescope. In its18 years of operation the IUE provided data for thousands of scientific papers. IUE real time operations terminated on September 27, 1996.