ICON UPDATE: Launch Delay to Address Technical Issues

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.

Parker Solar Probe is Movin

Parker Solar Probe was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 37 on August 12, 2018 on its “Mission to Touch the Sun”. The APL Mission Operations and Instrument Teams are beginning the commissioning of the instruments on the spacecraft. Parker Solar Probe is rapidly moving toward its initial encounter with the sun and is now 16.36 million miles from the Earth and is traveling at 45,905 miles per hour, as of 1pm ET today, 9/6/18. The first of sevenVenus Gravity Assist flyby’s will happen on October 3rd 2018.

Want to track the spacecraft as it speeds towards the Sun?

Follow along: Stats update once an hour.

FOXSI 3 to Launch from White Sands Missile Range NET Sept 7

Without special instrumentation, the Sun looks calm and inert. But beneath that placid façade are countless miniature explosions called nanoflares.

These small but intense eruptions are born when magnetic field lines in the Sun’s atmosphere tangle up and stretch until they break like a rubber band. The energy they release accelerates particles to near lightspeed and according to some scientists, heats the solar atmosphere to its searing million-degree Fahrenheit temperature.

Finding the traces of nanoflares requires X-ray vision, and scientists have been hard at work developing the best tools for the job. The latest advance in this project is represented by NASA’s Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager, or FOXSI, sounding rocket mission, soon to take its third flight from the White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, no earlier than Sept.

Learn about the FOXSI 3 Mission

MAVEN Finds That “Stolen” Electrons Enable Unusual Aurora on Mars

Auroras appear on Earth as ghostly displays of colorful light in the night sky, usually near the poles. Our rocky neighbor Mars has auroras too, and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft just found a new type of Martian aurora that occurs over much of the day side of the Red Planet, where auroras are very hard to see.

Auroras flare up when energetic particles plunge into a planet’s atmosphere, bombarding gases and making them glow. While electrons generally cause this natural phenomenon, sometime protons can elicit the same response, although it’s more rare. Now, the MAVEN team has learned that protons were doing at Mars the same thing as electrons usually do at Earth—create aurora. This is especially true when the Sun ejects a particularly strong pulse of protons, which are hydrogen atoms stripped of their lone electrons by intense heat. The Sun ejects protons at speeds up to two million miles per hour (more than 3 million kilometers per hour) in an erratic flow called the solar wind.

This animation shows a proton aurora at Mars. First, a solar wind proton approaches Mars at high speed and encounters a cloud of hydrogen surrounding the planet. The proton steals an electron from a Martian hydrogen atom, thereby becoming a neutral atom. The atom passes through the bowshock, a magnetic obstacle surrounding Mars, because neutral particles are not affected by magnetic fields. Finally, the hydrogen atom enters Mars’ atmosphere and collides with gas molecules, causing the atom to emit ultraviolet light. (Courtesy NASA-GSFC/MAVEN/Dan Gallagher)

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The Van Allen Probes Launched OTD Six Years Ago

The twin Van Allen Probes launched 6 years ago today! 🛰🚀🛰 These spacecraft are solving scientific puzzles about the dynamic, donut-shaped radiation belts around Earth, which teem with energetic particles that can affect our technology.

UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab Designed Built and Integrated two sets of identical instrument suites, one for each spacecraft. An Instrument suite comprised two 6 meter AXB’s or Axial Staceer Booms and four 50 meter SPB’s or Spin Plane Wire Booms and an Electronics Package.


NASA’s ICON launch now targeted for Oct. 6

NASA and Northrop Grumman are now targeting Saturday, Oct. 6, 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 4:00 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 June launch was postponed after off-nominal data was detected during the ferry flight of Pegasus. The root cause was traced to a faulty sensor, which has been replaced.

Article Courtesy of Anna Heiney, NASA ICON Mission

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe explained in detail

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will study the Sun to help us better understand the corona, the solar wind and other solar activity that might impact life on Earth. The mission was named for Eugene Parker, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. The Parker Solar Probe launched on a Delta IV Heavy rocket on 12 August 2018. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman/Goddard Space Flight Center