NASA ICON Spacecraft Launches A Mission For Exploring The Space

NASA ICON Spacecraft Launches A Mission For Exploring The Space”

NASA finally launched Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite into the orbit after a delay of almost two years.

The mission was to launch the Pegasus XL rocket at 39,000 feet at around 9:30, but that launch window was skipped due to a communication issue between the aircraft and the ground team at Cape Canaveral. Five seconds after the satellite's release, the attached Pegasus rocket ignited, sending Icon on its way.

The spacecraft's solar panels efficiently deployed, indicating it has energy with all methods working.

NASA expects to receive the first data from ICON in November.

ICON will research adjustments in a region of the higher environment known as the ionosphere. In addition to interfering with communications signals, space weather in the ionosphere can also prematurely decay spacecraft orbits and expose astronauts to radiation-borne health risks. Traditionally, this crucial area of the near to Earth space has been tough to observe.

NASA says ICON's job is important, because it's not easy observing that part of the atmosphere: it's too low for most spacecraft and too high for balloons.

"The ionosphere is where Earth ends or where space begins, and we haven't studied it almost enough to fully understand how it works and to make reliable predictions", said Christoph Englert, lead investigator for MIGHTI.

The ionosphere is the layer in the atmosphere where radio communications and Global Positioning System signals travel but space weather can cause interference with these signals. The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) spacecraft is finally in orbit after years of delays.

IVM: The Ion Velocity Meter will observe the speed of the charged particle motions, in response to the push of the high altitude winds and the electric fields they generate. Full-fledged auroras appear near the poles in the ionosphere, but airglow is a fainter version of the same process that can happen nearly anyplace. But it's still bright enough for ICON's instruments to build up a picture of the ionosphere's density, composition and structure. NASA hopes to use ICON to study the so-called airglow in the ionosphere. NASA's ICON satellite will study the Earth's ionosphere. This rapid orbit circles Earth in 97 minutes while precessing around the equator, allowing ICON to sample a wide range of latitude, longitude and local times.

Omar Baez, launch director in NASA's Launch Services Program said in a statement, "When your launchpad is moving at 500/600 miles per hour (800 to 960 kmph) things happen". It is supposed to be a two-year mission but if all goes well it can last for 10 years.

MIGHTI is a project developed by NRL in Washington, D.C. and the St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The region where our planet's weather meets weather of the space is also home to the International Space Station (ISS) and it is also a critical pathway for our communication satellites.

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