NASA and Northrop Grumman managers are holding a Flight Readiness Review to ensure preparations are continuing on track for the launch of the agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite. The meeting is taking place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California where the spacecraft is being processed. ICON is scheduled to be launched Oct. 26, 2018, by a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket carried aloft by the company’s L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.
Recent checkouts of the ICON satellite have been completed and the payload fairing was installed with that process completed on Oct. 6. The Stargazer arrived at Vandenberg the day before. Plans call for the Pegasus XL rocket with ICON aboard to soon be attached to the aircraft for the flight to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
On launch day, the Stargazer will take off from the Cape’s Skid Strip runway with the Pegasus XL rocket to be launched over the Atlantic Ocean about 50 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida. This L-1011 aircraft is a mobile launch platform and the only one of its kind in the world.
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.