It’s official, Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket launched NASA’s long-delayed Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite into orbit at approximately 9:59 p.m. EDT on Oct. 10th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It will study the dynamic zone in Earth’s atmosphere, or the region where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above.
ICON was attached to the Pegasus XL rocket, which piggybacked a ride on Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft. Once it reached an altitude of 39,000 feet, the rocket was then dropped, with ignition occurring just five seconds later.
This satellite is expected to vastly improve the forecasts of extreme space weather by utilizing in-situ and remote-sensing instruments for surveying the variability of Earth’s ionosphere. The ICON mission will also help researchers determine the physics of our space environment, eventually paving the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems as well as the society.