NASA’s ICON satellite to launch on Wednesday

The new orbiter will orbit in the ionosphere and study the interactions of Earth and space weather.
By | Published: October 8, 2019 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

An artist rendition of ICON, which will explore the ionosphere.

NASA Goddard’s Conceptual Image Lab/B. Monroe
NASA will launch its Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite on Wednesday, October 9, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:30 p.m. EDT.

The new satellite will orbit Earth, studying what happens when space weather and Earth weather interact in Earth’s ionosphere, the atmosphere level populated by ions and free electrons.  


This area is also home to traveling GPS and communication signals. Scientists hope to study how the physics at play in the region impact radio communications and satellites, as well as how it can affect astronauts’ health. This could eventually lead to changes in how technology and communications systems work and function in the ionosphere. 

ICON will launch on Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL, an air-launched rocket that takes off from the belly of an airplane and is capable of delivering satellites into low-Earth orbit. Initially, the satellite was supposed to launch in October of 2018, but the launch was held off after NASA officials decided they wanted to investigate a faulty sensor on the Pegasus rocket. 

NASA TV will air the launch beginning at 9:15 p.m. EDT.