Exploring Where Earth's Weather Meets Space Weather

ICON Launch Update

The Pegasus XL rocket has gone through each of its three stage motors, reaching a top speed of nearly 17,000 mph. ICON has now separated from the rocket to begin its mission, orbiting 360 miles above the Earth.

The spacecraft’s solar panels successfully deployed, indicating it has power with all systems operating. After an approximately month-long commissioning period, ICON will begin sending back its first science data in November.

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will be the newest addition to NASA’s fleet of Heliophysics satellites. Led by UC Berkeley, scientists and engineers around the world are coming together to make ICON a reality.

The goal of the ICON mission is to understand the tug-of-war between Earth’s atmosphere and the space environment. In the "no mans land" of the ionosphere, a continuous struggle between solar forcing and Earth’s weather systems drive extreme and unpredicted variability. ICON will investigate the forces at play in the near-space environment, leading the way in understanding disturbances that can lead to severe interference with communications and GPS signals.
 
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Tour the Plane Giving NASA’s ICON a Ride to Space

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NASA EDGE: ICON L-1 Show


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Latest News

ICON’s mission to the ionosphere begins with beautiful fall launch

Karin Hauck 0 23

[Robert Sanders, Berkeley News, October 10, 2019] At 9:59 p.m. EDT this evening, Thursday, Oct. 10, NASA launched the Ionospheric Connection, or ICON, mission, putting into orbit a satellite built largely at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory to explore the dynamic region where Earth meets space, the ionosphere.

The mission is the first dedicated to studying how terrestrial weather can help drive space weather above, in the region where our upper atmosphere overlaps with the lowest reaches of space – a dynamic region where changes can disrupt radio, cell phone, and GPS communications used to guide airplanes and ships.

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.

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

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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