“The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) is a satellite designed to investigate changes in the Earth’s ionosphere. ICON will study the interaction between Earth’s weather systems and space weather driven by the Sun, and how this interaction drives turbulence in the upper atmosphere. It is hoped that a better understanding of this dynamic will mitigate its effects on communications, GPS signals, and technology in general. It is part of NASA’s Explorers program and will be operated by UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory.
Once launched, ICON will perform a two-year mission to observe conditions in both the thermosphere and ionosphere. ICON will be equipped with four instruments: a Michelson interferometer, built by the United States Naval Research Laboratory, will measure the winds and temperatures in the thermosphere; an ion drift meter, built by UT Dallas, will measure the motion of charged particles in the ionosphere; and two ultraviolet imagers built at UC Berkeley will observe the airglow layers in the upper atmosphere in order to determine both ionospheric and thermospheric density and composition.
Many low-Earth orbiting satellites, including the International Space Station, fly through the ionosphere and can be affected by its changing electric and magnetic fields. ...