Who launched the ICON space weather satellite

Ionospheric missile launched from aircraft

Washington - The US space agency NASA has started a mission to research the earth's outer atmosphere and has brought the ICON satellite ("Ionospheric Connection Explorer") into space with a Pegasus XL rocket.

Launchers of this type do not start directly from a spaceport, but are brought to an altitude of 12,000 meters by plane. There they are released, drop a little and then ignite their engine. Loads of almost half a ton can be brought into orbit in this way.

The zone examined by the satellite, the ionosphere, extends from 80 to about 640 kilometers in altitude. It thus includes the thermosphere, in which the ISS, for example, also circles, and the lower section of the exosphere. The latter has no real outer boundary, it just thins out in the direction of interplanetary space. With ICON, NASA wants to find out how space weather affects this zone.

Mission background

In the ionosphere, continuous streams of particles from the sun - so-called solar winds - can cause problems that affect the earth. "This is a dynamic region where changes can disrupt communications and satellite orbits and even increase the radiation risk for astronauts," NASA wrote on Twitter after the launch. Understanding and predicting these changes helps to better protect such technologies and space travelers.

The ICON satellite is to record the processes in the ionosphere on its orbit at an altitude of 575 kilometers from November. The focus is on the so-called airglow, a weak glow in the higher atmospheric layers. ICON will analyze this glow, according to NASA. (red, APA, October 11, 2019)