The Ionospheric Connection Explorer! 🚀 ICON will study Earth’s dynamic interface to space. To get ready for the Oct. 26 launch, we’re counting down with 10 key things to know about the mission:
First up: 🔟-mile-per-hour sensitivity
Though ICON zooms around Earth at upwards of 14,000 miles per hour, its wind-measuring instrument MIGHTI can detect changes in wind speed smaller than 10 miles per hour. MIGHTI makes use of the Doppler effect — the same phenomenon that makes an ambulance siren change pitch as it passes you — and measures the tiny shifts in color caused by the motion of glowing gases in the upper atmosphere, which reveals their speed and direction.
Four months after standing down launch operations of the ICON mission on their Pegasus rocket, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems is entering the home stretch for a realigned launch on 26 October 2018 at 04:05 EDT (0805 UTC) over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This week, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems managers for both ICON and Pegasus sat down with NASASpaceflight’s Chris Gebhardt to discuss what happened back in June as well as the current status of both vehicles in the final weeks before launch.
What happened in June:
In June, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) began the ferry flight of their Stargazer L-1011 aircraft – with the Pegasus rocket safely encapsulating ICON inside its payload fairing – across the Pacific Ocean from California to the Kwajalein Atoll, where the air-drop launch of ICON was set to occur.
During the first leg of this trip from California to Hawai’i, systems engineers aboard Stargazer noticed an off-nominal reading from one of Pegasus’ new Actuator Control Units.
“This is the first time that we’re using Northrop Grumman-designed Actuator Control Units,” stated Bryan Baldwin, Pegasus Program Manager, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, in an exclusive interview with NASASpaceflight.
The Mission Status
October 5, 2018 courtesy fo NASA SpaceFlight
NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, for the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON. The spacecraft will launch aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window is 90 minutes starting at 4 a.m. EDT and ICON will be launching off the coast of Daytona at 39,000 ft. at a heading of 105.0 degrees. The launch was postponed from Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, to allow time to address a quality issue with a vendor-supplied electrical connector on the launch vehicle, which has been resolved.
Photo Credit: NASA
NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to delay the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, to allow time to address a quality issue with a vendor-supplied electrical connector on the launch vehicle. Northrop Grumman does not expect an extended delay and will work with the range to determine a new launch date. The ICON spacecraft will launch aboard a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
At 3:31 AM Eastern Time on August 12, after a one day delay, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft took off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for its “Mission to Touch the Sun”. On board two instrument suites, FIELDS and SWEAP, with many of its team members working out of the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab. Initial reports are that systems are nominal. Some early milestones achieved, Fairing Separation, Solar Array Deploy, Boost by the Third Stage and Separation from same. Over the next days and month, instruments from not only UC Berkeley but others will start to be turned on and checked out. Deployments will happen and Instruments checked out. By December we should be receiving our first data from the spacecraft. Congratulations to everyone that worked on this milestone project.
Above video (48 seconds) from Sergio Leite, friend of SSL. Below NASA-TV (7 minutes)