Orbital Sciences Corporation has been selected by NASA to design built and test a spacecraft for the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission . Orbital will provide its LEOStar-2 spacecraft platform for the two-year mission under a contract valued at $50 million. The mission, which will be led by the University of California at Berkeley, is currently planned for launch in 2017.
The mission of the ICON satellite is to study the interface between the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere and outer space in response to a recent scientific discovery that the ionosphere, positioned at the edge of space where the Sun ionizes the air to create charged particles, is significantly influenced by storms in the lower atmosphere. ICON will also help NASA better understand how atmospheric winds control ionospheric variability.
ICON was awarded under NASA’s Explorer series of lower-cost and highly-productive space science satellites.