ICON arrives at Vandenberg

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On May 1, our Ionospheric Connection Explorer arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the next stage of its journey to launch, which is scheduled for June 14 US time from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (Kwajalein is in a different time zone so it will be June 15 there.)

The observatory made an overnight trip from Gilbert, Arizona, where it was in an Orbital ATK facility. At Vandenberg, ICON will be integrated onto a Pegasus XL rocket and flown to Kwajalein on an L-1011 aircraft, which will double as the rocket's launcher.

Rub-A-Dub-Dub, ICON EUV gets a scrub

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In preparation for launch, the ICON EUV instrument recently went through a week long "scrub" activity at the Orbital ATK facility in Gilbert, Arizona. The detector in EUV is a microchannel plate (MCP), and the millions of tiny tubes in the MCP can develop different characteristics during all the testing done on the ground, and overall become less effective. The scrub involves running the detector at high voltage while it is illuminated by a bright EUV light source, which cleans off any molecules that weren’t there at the start of all that testing. When done for a sufficient amount of time (a week, in this case), the detector develops a more uniform and stable amplification, just like when it was new. It’s like a drink from the fountain of youth for the MCP.

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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