NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer or ICON spacecraft finally launched today and has been ejected in the Earth’s orbit after years of delay and several postponed launches.
A Northrop Grumman Stargazer L-1011 aircraft which carried the fridge-sized ICON spacecraft into the orbit was launched using the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket at 8:31 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
It then dropped the aircraft in the space at an altitude of about 39,000 feet in the second attempt at 9:59 p.m. EDT and ICON spacecraft’s solar panels deployed, indicating it has power with all systems operating.
The mission of ICON spacecraft:
ICON spacecraft was designed to detect and study changes in the ionosphere region which is between the upper atmosphere of Earth and Space, it will analyze how the ionosphere behaves with the two different atmospheres. It is equipped with four instruments out of which three instruments will observe an aurora-like phenomenon called airglow, which will allow it to see how particles move in that region.
Its fourth instrument will provide direct measurements of the ionosphere and characterize the charged gases surrounding around the spacecraft immediately.
It will spend the next month observing the ionosphere and collecting information and NASA expects it to start sending the first scientific data back in November.