Mission Operations Center

The Mission Operations Center (MOC) at UCB’s Space Sciences Laboratory is tasked with operating the ICON mission. The MOC is currently operating THEMIS, ARTEMIS, FAST and NuSTAR, all NASA Explorer missions.

UCB MOC with engineers remotely monitoring the pre-launch spacecraft

For ICON, operations began early with the integration of the spacecraft at Orbital, where Berkeley operations engineers worked with the spacecraft engineers in all the initial tests and checkout of the bus. This continued with the arrival of the scientific payload, through integration of the full ICON observatory with the launch vehicle.

ICON launched at 9:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, October 10, 2019 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. While all went smoothly at the launch site over the Atlantic, mission control at the Space Sciences Laboratory had to contend with a power outage instituted by the local utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, to prevent predicted high winds from sparking fires in the surrounding Berkeley hills. The campus’s cogeneration plant supplied the needed power to track the satellite during its initial passes over California.

Lab director Steve Beckwith observed, “It was like watching a choreographed performance turn into a jazz improvisation, as problems came up and the individual team members solved them in real time, feeding off one another’s talent and energy,”

ICON was placed into a  27 degree inclination orbit and communications was immediately established between ICON and the UCB MOC using TDRSS, the orbiting NASA communications network. Ground contacts were used from then on to command and operate ICON. Ground contacts with ICON are performed mainly from the Berkeley Ground Station, with backup contacts out of Wallops and Santiago.


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