Ionospheric Connection (ICON) Explorer
Ionospheric Connection (ICON) Explorer a new satellite has been launched and placed in low earth orbit by NASA to study ionosphere. ICON was put into orbit by dropping it from Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Stargrazer aircraft flying over the Atlantic off the Florida coast.. After the drop, the Pegasus XL rocket thrusted to put this satellite into orbit. ICON was set be launched in 2017, but was delayed due to repeatedly problems occurring with the launching rocket.
ICON will study interactions occurring between earth weather and the outer space weather in Ionosphere, the proportions of ions and free electrons, the air glow and much more. The satellite will observe the dynamic characters of Ionosphere that are being changed by not only solar storms but also by earth’s own weather phenomena. The deep study of ionosphere and its interactions with ionosphere will help managing the disruptions caused to radio communications. It will also help protecting our astronauts aboard International Space Station (ISS).
Ionosphere is the uppermost layer of earth’s atmosphere extending from 75-1000 km from surface of earth. The temperature of this layer ranges from 200 Kelvin to 500 Kelvin. It contains highly ionized gases and free electrons. This layer is ionized by two agencies one by sun and the other is cosmic rays. The part of ionosphere facing sun gets charged by high energy solar flares, while, cosmic rays from different sources in our galaxy keep on ionizing the whole ionosphere.