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NASA Launches ICON Mission to Study Earth’s Ionosphere


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a satellite ICON to detect dynamic zones of Earth’s Ionosphere. At the same time, it has to find the link between space and earth’s weather. This NASA’s ICON mission started with a delay of two years.

The satellite Ionosphere Connection Explorer (ICON) was launched from an aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean near the Florida coast. Five seconds after the satellite’s launch, the Pegasus rocket attached to it ignited, and ICON proceeded on its way.

About ICON Mission

• The ICON satellite will study the Earth’s Ionosphere. It includes various layers of the uppermost atmosphere where free electrons flow freely. It affects Earth’s magnetic field and radio communications.
• The scientists will be able to understand the link between space and the earth’s weather with this study.
• The ICON mission is the 39th successful launch and satellite deployment by Pegasus rocket.
• This mission is operated by the University of California. It was originally planned to launch in late 2017 but delayed due to the problems with the Pegasus XL rocket.
• Ionosphere Connection Explorer (ICON) is equipped with 780-watt solar arrays to power the instruments.
• ICON has designed as a two year’s mission but if all goes well according to the plan, it will last for more than a decade.
• Four instruments have been sent along with ICON. One of these instruments will measure wind speed and temperature, one will measure the speed of ions and two others will observe light emitted from the ion by ultraviolet cameras.

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What is Ionosphere?

It is an active part of the Earth’s atmosphere. The ionosphere lies between 80 to 400 Km above the mesosphere. It contains electrically charged particles, which are called ions and hence it is known as the ionosphere. Radio waves sent by Earth return to Earth through its layers. The temperature starts increasing as the height increases right from the Ionosphere. The amount of ionization in the ionosphere, the height and thickness of the layers, the number of particles located in and the independent electrons, generally grows and shrinks.

What is Earth’s Atmosphere?

The Earth’s atmosphere remains around the planet like a jacket that covers the entire Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere provides us oxygen, keeps us warm and let us breathe. It has 6 different layers such as Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere, Ionosphere and Exosphere.

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