The launch of NASA's very delayed mission to study the interaction between terrestrial and space weather has again been postponed,…
The launch of NASA’s very delayed mission to study the interaction between terrestrial and space weather has again been postponed, announced today by the Agency (October 23).
The mission, a terrestrial satellite called ionosphere Connection Explorer, was originally scheduled to start in December 201
7 and has been repeatedly delayed due to problems with its rocket. Lastly, it was due to launch early in the morning on October 26th from an aircraft that would start from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA has not offered a detailed reason for the new delay beyond that team would continue to test the rocket.
“NASA and Northrop Grumman have delayed the launch of the Agency’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, to carry out further rocket testing,” NASA officials said in a statement. “Upon completion of testing, a new launch date will be established.”
The agency has not yet relocated the launch and did not express a sense of how long the delay would last, although it stated in its statement that the spacecraft itself “stays in good health.”
The ICON rocket, a Pegasus XL booster built by the Northrop Grumman Innovations System (former Orbital ATK), is unusual – rather than starting from the ground, rocket and spacecraft are boarded on a plane and lose midflight at what time the rocket burns. In June, the whole package took out for the Marshall Islands, which was then the launch launch of the mission, to return only to a problem with the rocket.
The ICON mission is designed to study the ionic sphere, a layer of Earth’s atmosphere where terrestrial and space weather interacts. It’s a tumultuous part of space, but it’s also a very important region for GPS satellites and other space infrastructure, which means that NASA’s decision is to build the landed spacecraft.