NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer has been postponed to launch tomorrow night, weather permitting from Florida over the Atlantic Ocean by Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL rocket. ICON and Pegasus will take off aboard the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for a 90-minute launch window opening at 9:25 pm (Eastern).
Sarah Jones is a research scientist in the Helio Science Division in NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She said space weather is similar to Earth's weather underneath hurricanes and thunderstorms.
"In space, we also get storms, coming from the sun. What happens on the sun then effects space around it, including the space right around our Earth's atmosphere where we can have changes in temperature, pressure fronts and changes in wind velocity," said Jones.
She said ICON will take pictures of the Earth's atmosphere and will measure the "air-glow" which tells scientists about space weather.
"We care, of course, about what's going on around the Earth because it can effect signals that come from our satellites, like our GPS satellites which can then have effects on our technologies here on the ground and on our daily lives," said Jones.
The ionosphere can be disruptive to radio communications and satellites and astronaut health. ICON will help determine the physical processes at play in the ionosphere and pave the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems and society.