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NASA’s ICON to Explore Boundary Between Earth and Space

10 Oct 2019, 07:01 UTC
NASA’s ICON to Explore Boundary Between Earth and Space
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Illustration of ICON spacecraft. (Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

UPDATE: Due to weather in the area, NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to move the Pegasus XL and ICON launch 24-hours to October 10 at 9:30 p.m., with takeoff of the Stargazer L-1011 at 8:32 p.m. NASA’s live broadcast will begin tomorrow at 9:15 p.m. on www.nasa.gov/live.

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — On Oct.10, 2019, NASA launches the Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, a spacecraft that will explore the dynamic region where Earth meets space: the ionosphere.

Overlapping the farthest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere and the very beginning of space, the ionosphere stretches roughly 50 to 400 miles above the surface. Solar radiation cooks tenuous gases there until they lose an electron (or two or three), creating a sea of electrically charged ions and electrons. Neither fully Earth nor space, the ionosphere reacts both to winds and weather from the lower atmosphere below and solar energy streaming in from above, changing constantly to form conditions we call space weather.

“After years of work, I’m excited to get into orbit and turn on the spacecraft, open the doors on all our instruments,” said Thomas Immel, ICON principal ...

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