NORTH LOGAN – Following NASA’s successful launch of its Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON), two instruments containing cameras from the Space Dynamics Lab (SDL) at Utah State University are now in a low-earth orbit.
Jed Hancock, executive director of programs and operations at the SDL, said ICON will study weather conditions in the Ionosphere.
“Just like you would create a weather station to measure the weather on earth, we’ve created a weather station — a payload that is on a satellite — that orbits about the earth and makes assessments of what’s happening in the space weather,” Hancock explained. “And this is super important because this is the boundary layer where all of the communications from space that we rely on every day — GPS, satellite — all those kind of communications go through this.”
Hancock said the SDL staff watched the launch via satellite and saw a rocket sent off from an L-1011 Stargazer aircraft flying at 40,000 feet.
”We were able to see on camera the rocket be dropped from the airplane,” he added. “Then the boosters ignite and we watched that rocket race out ahead of us going up to speeds of tens of thousands of miles an hour.”
Hancock said the ICON mission seeks to help scientists understand this weather interaction that can cause disruptions in Global Positioning System satellites and radio frequencies.
The two instruments containing SDL cameras are the Michelson Interferometer for Global High-resolution imaging and the Far Ultra Violet imaging Spectograph.