Spaceflight Insider

Launch of NASA ICON mission postponed

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 lifts off with the CYGNSS mission in December of 2016. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

The Northrop Grumman L-1011 lifts off with the CYGNSS mission in December of 2016. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA and Northrop Grumman have decided to delay the launch of the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission due to what has been described as “off-nominal data” discovered from the mission’s launch vehicle.

As of this posting, a new launch date has not yet been announced. The ICON spacecraft itself has not encountered any issues. However, the Pegasus XL rocket, which had been slated to launch ICON on June 14, 2018, required additional testing and data analysis which saw the mission’s return to Vandenberg Air Force Base located in California.

If everything occurs as NASA hopes, ICON will be used to gain a better understanding of the space environment. ICON is designed to limit the impact space-borne “weather” has on our communications and other systems.

A technician with Orbital ATK works on a Pegasus XL rocket at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

A technician with Orbital ATK works on a Pegasus XL rocket at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Photo Credit: Carleton Bailie / SpaceFlight Insider

When it take to the skies, its mission will get its start via the Pegasus XL rocket. The Pegasus XL is carried aloft underneath a Northrop Grumman L-1011 aircraft that then releases the rocket at which point it activates its engine and begins its ascent. 

In terms of ICON, the mission will lift off from Kwajalein Atoll located in the Marshall Islands.

The Pegasus XL rocket measures some 58 feet (17.6 meters) in length. Its first launch took place on April 5, 1990. Its most recent flight, that of NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on December 15, 2016.

 

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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