LOGAN — Utah State has sent yet more work into space with the launch of NASA’s ICON (Ionospheric Connection Explorer) weather satellite Thursday night over the Atlantic Ocean.
The rocket transporting the satellite was dropped by an L-1011 Stargazer aircraft and was in a free fall for five seconds before the rocket ignited its first motor, about 40,000 feet above the ocean, according to a press release from Utah State’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL).
According to NASA’s ICON blog, the satellite will “study the dynamic zone in our atmosphere where terrestrial weather from below meets space weather from above,” called the ionosphere.
Weather in this space can disrupt GPS satellites and radio frequencies, according to the SDL press release.
SDL developed two cameras used in the satellite’s instruments.
One of the cameras will image the atmosphere to measure winds and temperature variations.
The other will measure the density of ionized gas at night and will monitor how the chemistry of the atmosphere changes during the day.
SDL also conducted the payload integration for the launch of ICON. Payload integration means preparing a payload — in this case, the ICON satellite and the equipment inside it — to be transported by the rocket, and conducting tests to make sure it won’t be damaged in the process.
“The successful launch of ICON illustrates another step forward in understanding how space weather interacts with Earth’s weather a frequent cause of volatile atmospheric conditions in a region of space that can affect satellite and radio signals used by many every day for applications such as agriculture, aviation, recreation, and timing,” said Jed Hancock, executive director of programs and operations at the Space Dynamics Laboratory, in the press release.