Launch of NASA’s ICON Satellite Postponed

Artist image of NASA's ICON satellite.NASA and Northrop Grumman have postponed the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite. ICON, which will study the frontier of space, was targeted to launch on a Pegasus XL rocket June 14 from the Kwajalein Atoll in Marshall Islands.

During a ferry transit, Northrop Grumman saw off-nominal data from the Pegasus rocket. While ICON remains healthy, the mission will return to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for rocket testing and data analysis. A new launch date will be determined at a later date.

NASA Completes Flight Readiness Review for ICON Satellite

A technician uses an ultraviolet light to inspect the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL payload fairing
A technician uses an ultraviolet light to inspect the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL payload fairing on May 22, 2018. The examination is taking place after mating NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite to the Pegasus XL rocket inside Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Photo credit: NASA/Randy Beaudoin

Following a Flight Readiness Review NASA Launch Director Omar Baez and the mission team confirmed the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket will be ready for its targeted launch date for the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. The spacecraft will be boosted to Earth orbit during a launch window between 10:01 to 10:38 a.m. EDT on June 14, 2018, (2:01 to 2:38 a.m. on June 15 at the launch site, Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands).

While the ICON satellite and its Pegasus XL rocket are being processed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the combination was attached to Northrop Grumman’s L-1011 Star Gazer aircraft and will be ferried to the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll.

On launch day the Stargazer aircraft will take off form Kwajalein carrying the Pegasus XL rocket. Five seconds after the rocket is released, its engine will ignite sending ICON to orbit.

ICON is designed to study the frontier of space — the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. The explorer will help determine the physics of Earth’s space environment and pave the way for mitigating its effects on our technology and communications systems.

Scientists believe ICON will help determine the physics of our space environment and pave the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the Explorer Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory leads the ICON mission. The ICON spacecraft was built by Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis and launch management.

ICON Satellite Arrives at Vandenberg

ICON Satellite Arrives at Vandenberg AFBA solar array illumination test is performed on NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite in the Building 1555 clean room Friday, May 4, 2018, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The test checks for any imperfections and confirms that the solar arrays are functioning properly.

ICON arrived on May 1, 2018, and preflight processing began after it was offloaded and transported to its current location. The explorer will launch June 15, 2018, from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands (June 14 in the continental United States). The satellite will be carried aloft on Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket, attached to the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.

ICON will study the frontier of space — the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. The explorer will help determine the physics of Earth’s space environment and pave the way for mitigating its effects on technology, communications systems and society.

Photo credit: USAF 30th Space Wing/Daniel Quinajon

ICON Spacecraft Arrives at Vandenberg

ICONOn May 1, 2018, NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for the next stage of its journey to launch, scheduled for June 15 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands (in the continental United States the launch date is June 14).

The observatory made the trip overnight from Gilbert, Arizona, where it was in an Orbital ATK facility. At Vandenberg, ICON will be integrated onto a Pegasus XL rocket, which will in turn be flown to Kwajalein on an L-1011 aircraft, which will double as its launcher.

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer will study the frontier of space: the dynamic zone high in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above. This region of space and its changes have practical repercussions — this is the area through which radio communications and GPS signals travel. Variations there can result in distortions or even complete disruption of signals. In order to understand this complicated region of near-Earth space, called the ionosphere, NASA has developed the ICON mission. ICON will help determine the physical process at play in our space environment and pave the way for mitigating their effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

NASA Goddard manages the Explorer Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory developed the ICON mission and the two ultraviolet imaging spectrographs onboard (the largest of which was integrated and tested at the Centre Spatial de Liège); the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., developed the MIGHTI instrument; the University of Texas in Dallas developed the Ion Velocity Meter; and the ICON spacecraft was built by Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia. NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launch management.

Photo credit: NASA

ICON Mission Update

NASA is postponing launch of the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) until 2018. The mission was previously planned to launch Dec. 8, 2017, on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. NASA and Orbital ATK need additional time to assess a separation component of the rocket. More information on a revised launch date will be provided once it becomes available.

Pegasus Rocket Prepared for NASA’s ICON Mission

The Pegasus XL second and third stages arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The second and third stages of the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket were offloaded from a transport vehicle at Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: Randy Beaudoin

Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket is being prepared to launch NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON mission. The rocket is being prepared in a facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

The rocket’s second and third stages, first stage motor and wing arrived at VAFB and were transported to Building 1555 for processing.

ICON will launch aboard Pegasus from the Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, on Dec. 9, 2017 (in the continental United States the launch date is Dec. 8).

ICON will study the frontier of space — the dynamic zone high in Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather above. The explorer will help determine the physics of Earth’s space environment and pave the way for mitigating its effects on our technology, communications systems and society.

The wing for the Pegasus XL rocket arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Workers transfer the wing for the Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket from a truck to a forklift at Building 1555 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Photo credit: Randy Beaudoin