NASA Launches ICON Satellite Which Will Study The Earth’s Ionosphere

NASA has managed to successfully launch the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)​ satellite, designed with the aim of studying the Earth’s ionosphere.

The ionosphere is an active layer of the atmosphere that magnifies or recoils, entirely dependant on the energy it assimilates from the Sun.

Using the ICON, scientists will observe the correlation between the space weather and terrestrial weather, and how the two communicate. The satellite was launched at exactly 6.59 AM IST, on October 10th, carried by a Northrop Grumman aircraft, in the payload fairing of the Pegasus XL rocket. The launch took place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

There are four powerful instruments attached to the ICON:

  • MIGHTI – The Michelson Interferometer for Global High-resolution Thermospheric Imaging tool is aimed to study the temperature and speed of the neutral atmosphere. MIGHTI was developed by Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
  • IVM – The Ion Velocity Meter will measure the speed of the charged particle motions concerning the push of the high altitude winds and the electric fields they produce. This instrument was built by the University of Texas, Dallas.
  • EUV – The Extreme Ultra-Violet tool is responsible for capturing images of oxygen shining in the upper atmosphere, so it can measure the height and density of the ionosphere during the day. EUV was constructed by the University of California, Berkeley
  • FUV – The Far Ultra-Violet instrument is designed to photograph images of the upper atmosphere in the distant ultraviolet light scope. FUV observes the density of the ionosphere at night and notes the way it responds to weather in the lower atmosphere. During the day, FUV studies the changes in the chemistry of the upper atmosphere. This tool was designed by the University of California, Berkeley.

ICON will also calculate how dense the atmosphere is and examine its chemical composition. The first batch of data from this satellite is expected to be received by November of this year. The entire mission is scheduled to last for two years, but if everything goes according to the plan, it can last for ten years.

The satellite will partner up with another project of NASA, known as ‘GOLD’ (Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk), which was launched back in 2018, and has also been analyzing the ionosphere.

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