NASA is now ready to launch a satellite using a jet aircraft after 2 years of constant delays. The launch will take place on Thursday from Florida if the weather is favorable.
The ICON or the Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite is designed to help NASA in understanding the effect of the solar flares on earth and its environment and magnetic field. This also includes the deadly radiation belt of earth called the Van Allen belt. The data from this satellite is supposed to help scientists make satellites that can withstand radiation for a longer duration.
The rocket is going to be carried onto high altitude above the Atlantic aboard the Northrop Grumman L-1011 stargazer aircraft. The aircraft will take-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force station. The whole process of the satellite is that, in the first stage, the aircraft will take the rockets to the designated height and once it is 50-100 miles east of the Daytona Beach, the rocket will be dropped. Once it drops, the rocket will ignite and carry the satellite to the destination. The whole weight of the Pegasus XL rocket and the payload of this mission is somewhere around 52,000 pounds.
There have been previous attempts back in 2017 and 2018 that were postponed due to fault in sensors and vibration in the rockets respectively. The Northrop Grumman team now says that it is finally ready after a rigorous and difficult testing procedure. According to the official statement from NASA the project has been completed under the budget only even after all the delays.
A crew of total 7 members will be overseeing the mission from the flight itself so that any issues can be tackled and weather can be analyzed. This will give them a 90 minute window for launch.
Ionosphere is the place where sun ionizes the air particles and creates charged particles. NASA believes that ICON will help them understand how the surface atmosphere and its storms affect ionosphere. It will also help them to understand the affect of atmospheric winds on the Ionospheric variability.
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