ICON Spacecraft Arrives at Vandenberg for June Launch

Photo Credit: NASA

NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the next stage of its journey to launch, scheduled for June 15 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands (in the continental United States the launch date is June 14).

The observatory made the trip overnight from Gilbert, Arizona, where it was in an Orbital ATK facility. At Vandenberg, ICON will be integrated onto a Pegasus XL rocket, which will in turn be flown to Kwajalein on an L-1011 aircraft, which will double as its launcher.

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer will study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above. This region of space and its changes have practical repercussions — this is the area through which radio communications and GPS signals travel. Variations there can result in distortions or even complete disruption of signals. In order to understand this complicated region of near-Earth space, called the ionosphere, NASA has developed the ICON mission. ICON will help determine the physical process at play in our space environment and pave the way for mitigating their effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

NASA Goddard manages the Explorer Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory developed the ICON mission and the two ultraviolet imaging spectrographs onboard (the largest of which was integrated and tested at the Centre Spatial de Liège); the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., developed the MIGHTI instrument; the University of Texas in Dallas developed the Ion Velocity Meter; and the ICON spacecraft was built by Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia. NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launch management.

Learn More About ICON:

Parker Solar Probe Heat Shield Arrives in Florida

Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield – encased in its metal shipping container – is reunited with the spacecraft – seen in the background – at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, on April 18, 2018. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

The Thermal Protection System — also known as the heat shield — for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe arrived in Titusville, Florida, on April 18, 2018, bringing it one step closer to reuniting with the spacecraft that will be the first to “touch” the Sun.
The Parker Solar Probe spacecraft arrived at Astrotech Space Operations two weeks prior, on April 3, to complete final testing. Though the spacecraft was flown by the Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing, the Thermal Protection System, or TPS, traveled on a flatbed truck, securely encased in a metal shipping container during its road trip to the Sunshine State. After setting off on a rainy Monday morning from Maryland, it was greeted with Florida’s balmy heat on Wednesday afternoon at Astrotech, where it will eventually be reattached to the spacecraft before launch in late July.

Parker Solar Probe’s Launch Vehicle Rises at Space Launch Complex 37

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy that will carry Parker Solar Probe is raised at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 17, 2018.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

On the morning of Tuesday, April 17, 2018, crews from United Launch Alliance raised the 170-foot tall Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle – the largest and most powerful rocket currently used by NASA – at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This Delta IV Heavy will carry Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to the Sun’s corona, on its journey to explore the Sun’s atmosphere and the solar wind. Launch is scheduled for approximately 4 a.m. EDT on July 31, 2018.
The launch vehicle consists of three Common Booster Cores, with a second stage on the center core; the encapsulated spacecraft, is scheduled to arrive in early July for integration onto the rocket. The spacecraft is now at Astrotech Space Operations in nearby Titusville undergoing final integration and testing. Parker Solar Probe will be the fastest human-made object in the solar system, traveling at speeds of up to 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 kilometers per hour).

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy that will carry Parker Solar Probe is raised at Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 17, 2018.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

More Photos from Delta IV Heavy going vertical

NASA’s Mission to Touch the Sun Arrives in the Sunshine State

A C-17 from the United States Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing, carrying NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, lands at 10:40 a.m. EDT at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, on the morning of April 3, 2018. After landing, the spacecraft was unloaded and taken to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, for pre-launch testing and preparations.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for its launch to the Sun, scheduled for July 31, 2018.
In the middle of the night on April 2, the spacecraft was driven from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to nearby Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. From there, it was flown by the United States Air Force’s 436th Airlift Wing to Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville, Florida, where it arrived at 10:40 a.m. EDT. It was then transported a short distance to Astrotech Space Operations, also in Titusville, where it will continue testing, and eventually undergo final assembly and mating to the third stage of the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.
Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun. After launch, it will orbit directly through the solar atmosphere – the corona – closer to the surface than any human-made object has ever gone. While facing brutal heat and radiation, the mission will reveal fundamental science behind what drives the solar wind, the constant outpouring of material from the Sun that shapes planetary atmospheres and affects space weather near Earth.

Parker Solar Probe: Women on a Mission

We’re celebrating Women’s History Month with a look at a group of women from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab who are key to the success of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a groundbreaking mission to explore our Sun, scheduled to launch on July 31.

Meet APL’s Nicola Fox, project scientist; Betsy Congdon, lead thermal protection system engineer; Yanping Guo, mission design and navigation manager; and Annette Dolbow, integration and test lead engineer — just a few of the women working to ready the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft for its historic journey to our star.

Learn more at http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/


Send Your Name to the Sun Aboard NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

Want to get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line?

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.

“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”

Understanding the Sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. Studying how the Sun affects space and the space environment of planets is the field known as heliophysics. The field is not only vital to understanding Earth’s most important and life-sustaining star, it supports exploration in the solar system and beyond.

Parts of the instrument suites on the Parker Solar Probe were made here at SSL.

Send your name to the sun.

THEMIS/ARTEMIS – 11 Years Post Launch

February 17th is the 11 year anniversary of the launch of the Five THEMIS Spacecraft, a two year mission to study space weather.

THEMIS Overview

NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) aims to resolve one of the oldest mysteries in space physics, namely to determine what physical process in near-Earth space initiates the violent eruptions of the aurora that occur during substorms in the Earth’s magnetosphere.

THEMIS is a 2-year mission consisting of 5 identical probes that will study the violent colorful eruptions of Auroras.

More about THEMIS and ARTEMIS Mission here