ICON post-launch status

Two weeks out, the observatory is performing well

Karin Hauck 0 707

As of today, ICON has been in space for two weeks since its launch from Cape Canaveral on October 10, 2019, and we’re pleased to report that the observatory is performing well.  

Here in the UCB Mission Operations Center, ICON’s commissioning has started, and all spacecraft functions—such as power generation, thermal and pointing control and maneuvering—have been successfully tested. We’re learning some things you can only learn on orbit, but the Northrop Grumman spacecraft seems to be in great shape and ready for science. The commissioning of ICON’s four instruments has started and will continue through November. All instruments have been turned on electrically and checked out. Two of the four instruments, IVM and MIGHTI, even received their first data. The MIGHTI instrument looks to be operating perfectly, producing interferograms that are exactly as we hoped. The other two instruments, EUV and FUV, will open their doors around Halloween, and then the high voltage will be ramped up. We’re working all day, but the observatory is monitored around the clock by flight controllers and engineers.

What does the MIGHTI instrument do?

What is an interferometer? What will MIGHTI be investigating in Earth's upper atmosphere?

Karin Hauck 0 1876

ICON carries four different instruments to explore Earth's upper atmosphere. The MIGHTI instrument, an example of an interferometer, looks at winds and temperatures in the ionosphere. In this video,  Drs. John Harlander and Chris Englert explain what an interferometer is and what MIGHTI will be investigating.

"The atmosphere naturally just glows at those altitudes, more during the day and less during the night...and by just looking at the color of this airglow, we can find out about the wind and the temperature. So the atmosphere... is helping us to understand how it is behaving by sending out this airglow. If we build the right instruments to look at particular aspects of the color of the airglow, we can get information that we want."
—  Dr. Chris Englert, MIGHTI instrument lead

How to Build a Research Satellite

ICON Assembly and Testing

Karin Hauck 0 4736

It’s about a year until ICON launches, and all teamsscience, instruments, mission operations and modeling teamsare moving forward with laser focus. There is little time to rest when so much goes into making a NASA satellite ready for launch in June 2017.  Systems need to be tested to ensure they can download and process the data that ICON will be generating nearly continuously, orbit after orbit, in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Current data processing testing is making use of the data that the flight instruments are already producing as they undergo ground testing—it's a great way to see how everything's flowing through the data pipeline.  In fact, the mission and instrument operations teams worked together recently to perform a “day in the life” test with the instruments, where they ran them through a 24 hour long sequence of commands, to simulate what they will do over a full day's worth of orbits.

ICON integration and testing is underway at the Space Dynamics Lab in Utah

Claire Raftery 0 4116

The integration and testing processes for the ICON payload have begun! All of the instruments have been shipped to the Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) in Logan Utah and integrated into the payload deck, with the Instrument Control Package due for shipment by the end of the month. IVM-B is coming soon as well, closing out the full complement of instruments.

The integration and testing - or I&T - procedures are a vital part of preparing for flight. The instruments have been built all over the country - California, Texas, and Virginia. In order to ensure that they will be able to function together as planned, they are brought together on the Payload Integration Plate (PIP). The PIP, the instruments, and the Instrument Control Package together become the science payload, which will then undergo a series of thorough vibration and thermal tests at SDL over the coming months.

Following I&T, the payload will be shipped from Utah to Orbital ATK in Virginia, where it will be integrated onto the main spacecraft “bus” - the guts of the satellite that controls communication, attitude, and other overall controls. This will happen towards the end of 2016, in preparation for launch in summer 2017.

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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