Neutral Ion Coupling Explorer

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NICE Satellite
Neutral Ion-Coupling Explorer
Operator NASA
Mission type Space observatory
Launch date 2012
Orbits Low Earth Orbit

The Neutral Ion Coupling Explorer (NICE)[1] is one of six proposed SMEX[2] satellites under consideration by NASA. The goal of the NICE mission is to answer the question: How do neutral dynamics drive ionospheric variability? NICE will approach this goal with three targeted investigations of neutral-ion coupling:

  • How do large-scale atmospheric waves control the ionosphere at low latitudes?
  • What causes the day-to-day variability in the low- latitude ionosphere observed by plasma drift measurements?
  • During magnetic storms, what causes the enhancement of ionospheric plasma at low latitudes?

Mission definition[edit]

NICE will discover how winds and composition of the upper atmosphere drive the electric fields and chemical reactions that control Earth's ionosphere. The mission will resolve competing theories about the low-latitude ionospheric dynamo, and will explain how large-scale waves from the lower atmosphere can couple to the ionosphere and upper atmosphere. Understanding neutral-ion coupling in Earth's atmosphere has applications for solar and planetary atmospheres including Mars and Jupiter. NICE will be the first mission to simultaneously measure all the key parameters that both characterize and drive the ionosphere. It will remotely measure the neutral wind, temperature, composition, atmospheric and ionospheric density distributions as well as make in situ measurements of the ion motion. NICE uses flight-tested science instruments in a low-inclination orbit where the geometry magnetically links the in situ and remote sensing measurements.