NASA Icon Mission: Watch The Stunning Visual Of It Deploying In Space


NASA, the American space research organisation launched the satellite ICON (Ionospheric Connection Explorer) on Thursday to explore 'our frontier with space'

Written By Yash Sanghvi | Mumbai | Updated On:

NASA, the American space research organisation, launched a satellite on Thursday night to explore the mysterious, dynamic region where air meets space. The satellite named Icon which is short for Ionospheric Connection Explorer rocketed into orbit following a two-year delay. It was dropped from a plane flying over the Atlantic off the Florida coast.

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'We are a go'

The satellite successfully air-launched

Icon is on its way

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'It’s our frontier with space'

The ionosphere is the charged part of the upper atmosphere extending several hundred miles up. It’s in constant flux as space weather bombards it from above and Earth weather from below, sometimes disrupting radio communications. “This protected layer, it’s the top of our atmosphere. It’s our frontier with space,” said NASA’s heliophysics division director, Nicola Fox.
The division director said there’s too much going on in this region to be caused by just the sun. Hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather conditions on Earth are also adding energy, she noted. The more scientists know, the better spacecraft and astronauts can be protected in orbit through improved forecasting.

'Icon goes where the action is'

The refrigerator-size Icon satellite will study the airglow formed from gases in the ionosphere and also measure the charged environment right around the 360-mile-high (580-kilometer-high) spacecraft. “It’s a remarkable physics laboratory,” said principal scientist Thomas Immel of the University of California, Berkeley, which is overseeing the two-year mission. He added: “Icon goes where the action is.”

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'We have no second chances on these type of missions'

Icon should have soared in 2017, but problems with Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus rocket interfered. Despite the long delay, NASA said the $252 million mission did not exceed its price cap. Northrop Grumman also built the satellite. During a news conference earlier this week, NASA launch director Omar Baez apologized for the delay.“We wanted to get things right on this rocket,” Baez said. “We have no second chances on these type of missions.” He added, after all, that was said and done in the end, everything went well. “This is about as good as it gets,” he concluded.

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