Ionospheric Connection Explorer

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Ionospheric Connection Explorer
ICON and Airglow - Daytime View.jpg
Artist's concept of ICON
Mission type Earth observation
Operator UC Berkeley and NASA
Website At
Mission duration 2 years (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer UC Berkeley and Orbital ATK
BOL mass 290.8 kg
Start of mission
Launch date 2018 (planned)[1]
Rocket Pegasus XL[2]
Launch site Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll
Contractor NASA Launch Services
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth (575 km)
Eccentricity 0 planned
Inclination 27 degrees planned
Period 94 min (approx)

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)[3] is a satellite designed to investigate changes in the Earth's ionosphere and is scheduled for launch in December 2017. The mission is being led by the University of California, Berkeley[4] and will be a new addition to NASA's Explorer program. ICON will provide NASA’s Heliophysics Division with a new capability to understand the tug-of-war between Earth’s atmosphere and the space environment. In the "no man's land" of the ionosphere, a continuous struggle between solar forcing and Earth’s weather systems drive extreme and unpredicted variability. ICON will investigate the forces at play in the near-space environment, leading the way in understanding disturbances that can lead to severe interference with communications and GPS signals.[3]

On April 12, 2013, NASA announced that ICON, along with Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD), had been selected for development[1] with the cost capped at $200 million, excluding launch costs.[2] The principal investigator of ICON is Thomas Immel[5] at the University of California, Berkeley.[1]

Mission concept[edit]

The ICON observational geometry, showing both in situ and remote sensing of the ionosphere-thermosphere system.
Credit: ICON team

Once launched, ICON will perform a two-year mission to observe conditions in both the thermosphere and ionosphere.[1] ICON will be equipped with four instruments: a Michelson interferometer, built by the United States Naval Research Laboratory, will measure the winds and temperatures in the thermosphere; an ion drift meter, built by University of Texas at Dallas, will measure the motion of charged particles in the ionosphere; and two Ultraviolet imagers built at UC Berkeley will observe the airglow layers in the upper atmosphere in order to determine both ionospheric and thermospheric density and composition.


  1. ^ a b c d "NASA Selects Explorer Investigations for Formulation". NASA. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Leone, Dan (20 October 2015). "Heliophysics Small Explorer Solicitation Set for First Half of 2016". SpaceNews. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Ionospheric Connection Explorer at the University of California, Berkeley.
  4. ^ Sanders, Robert (2013-04-16). "UC Berkeley selected to build NASA's next space weather satellite". Berkeley News. Retrieved 2016-01-19. 
  5. ^ "ICON Project Management". NASA. Retrieved 14 October 2017. 

External links[edit]