El Niño has effects all the way to the edge of the atmosphere.

Claire Raftery 0 3367
-- December 16, 2015

The warm El Niño conditions affecting weather around the Pacific Ocean are also affecting conditions in space, according to University of California, Berkeley scientists.

El Niño is commonly observed as a global change in rainfall due to changes in temperature in the Pacific Ocean. However, UC Berkeley scientists report today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco that the processes that lead to increased precipitation are also driving unexpected changes in the ionosphere, the uppermost level of the atmosphere.

The findings (AGU abstract #SA31F-2383) will be presented by Dr. Thomas Immel, and are based on calculations by Dr. Astrid Maute of the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado.

“We expected that we would see some changes in the ionosphere when we started this study” says Dr. Immel, a Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory, “but we were shocked at how strong the effect has turned out to be”.

MIGHTI undergoing pre-flight vibration testing

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The MIGHTI FMA sensor is currently going through proto-flight vibration testing. FMB completed testing 2 weeks ago. Final optical tests will be performed after vibration then both A and B will be packed up and shipped to Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) in Logan Utah on December 9, 2015. Once at SDL it will go through Thermal Vacuum and Calibration activities prior to delivery to ICON at the end of January 2016.

IVM Starts Final Functional and Environmental Testing

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The first of two IVMs, which is designated IVM-A based on its location on the spacecraft (facing forward), started End Item Testing (EIT) this week. The EIT is a thorough functional checkout including calibration over temperature and serves as the entry point baseline for environmental testing. Environmental testing will include EMI/EMC, Vibration and Thermal Vacuum testing which simulate the launch and flight environments as closely as possible. Testing will be completed in about eight weeks. 

While the IVM enjoys many years of heritage, the ICON IVM has improvements and modifications that will produce measurements of the plasma drift with unprecedented sensitivity to achieve the ICON science goals. 

The second IVM (IVM-B) fabrication is following closely behind IVM-A and is in the final phases of test and assembly. IVM-B faces in the aft direction on the spacecraft during normal operations, when the remote sensing optical instruments view the northern hemisphere. However, it will be activated during operations when the spacecraft is rotated to allow the optical instruments to view the southern hemisphere.

FUV Ships to Belgium for Alignment, Environmental Tests and Calibration in the Far Ultra Violet

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The preliminary alignment for the Far Ultraviolet Spectrograph (FUV) instrument using visible wavelength light has been completed at Lockheed Martin. The next phase of testing will see the instrument ship to Belgium to complete the alignment in the FUV in a specialized vacuum chamber.

The FUV ICON instrument has an articulating field of view. In order to accommodate this, special machinery is required to rotate the instrument during alignment, testing and calibration while inside the vacuum chamber. Centre Spatial de Liege (CSL) in Belgium will provide this unique ultraviolet vacuum facility.

The design for the FUV instrument is such that the optical system can be focused using visible light and a visible grating, as well as FUV light and grating. This is preferable, since alignment using UV must be performed in a vacuum chamber, which makes it more challenging to conduct the alignment.

Over the past four weeks, the SSL team has been traveling to Lockheed Martin where the instruments’ mirrors were carefully adjusted to achieve best focus and optimum spectral performance at visible wavelengths. The visible wavelengths chosen were suitably scaled to simulate performance at the FUV operating wavelength.

The next phase of testing will see the optics package ship to Centre Spatial de Liege (CSL) in Belgium. After verifying the visible alignments were maintained, and no shifts happened during transport, the UV grating and the two UV cameras will be installed and UV alignment will begin.

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ICON skin is based on Greytness by Adammer
Background image, courtesy of NASA, is a derivitave of photograph taken by D. Pettit from the ISS, used under Creative Commons license