Another step closer to launch

ICON passes pre-environmental review

Karin Hauck 0 327

After passing its "Pre-Environmental Review” last week, the ICON spacecraft/observatory is now in environmental testing at Orbital ATK in Virginia. We will run a number of tests -- such as vibration and acoustical tests -- over the following weeks that will simulate the launch and space environments that ICON will be exposed to. All the instruments continue to check out well, and we’re getting a lot of time on the observatory. All this testing and reviewing shows us that ICON is in great shape and will be ready to go when launch day arrives this summer. It’s all coming together!

How to Build a Research Satellite

ICON Assembly and Testing

Karin Hauck 0 1545

It’s about a year until ICON launches, and all teamsscience, instruments, mission operations and modeling teamsare moving forward with laser focus. There is little time to rest when so much goes into making a NASA satellite ready for launch in June 2017.  Systems need to be tested to ensure they can download and process the data that ICON will be generating nearly continuously, orbit after orbit, in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Current data processing testing is making use of the data that the flight instruments are already producing as they undergo ground testing—it's a great way to see how everything's flowing through the data pipeline.  In fact, the mission and instrument operations teams worked together recently to perform a “day in the life” test with the instruments, where they ran them through a 24 hour long sequence of commands, to simulate what they will do over a full day's worth of orbits.

ICON integration and testing is underway at the Space Dynamics Lab in Utah

Claire Raftery 0 1339

The integration and testing processes for the ICON payload have begun! All of the instruments have been shipped to the Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) in Logan Utah and integrated into the payload deck, with the Instrument Control Package due for shipment by the end of the month. IVM-B is coming soon as well, closing out the full complement of instruments.

The integration and testing - or I&T - procedures are a vital part of preparing for flight. The instruments have been built all over the country - California, Texas, and Virginia. In order to ensure that they will be able to function together as planned, they are brought together on the Payload Integration Plate (PIP). The PIP, the instruments, and the Instrument Control Package together become the science payload, which will then undergo a series of thorough vibration and thermal tests at SDL over the coming months.

Following I&T, the payload will be shipped from Utah to Orbital ATK in Virginia, where it will be integrated onto the main spacecraft “bus” - the guts of the satellite that controls communication, attitude, and other overall controls. This will happen towards the end of 2016, in preparation for launch in summer 2017.

The MIGHTI Engineering Unit optics integration and vibration test is complete

Claire Raftery 0 972

ICON’s Michelson Interferometer for Global High-resolution Thermospheric Imaging (MIGHTI) instrument includes two identical optical assemblies, one for each of the perpendicular fields of view that will observe thermospheric wind-vector and temperature profiles. An engineering unit of the optical assembly was completed and successfully vibration tested in June 2015 at the Naval Research Laboratory.

EUV Alignment and Calibration has begun

Claire Raftery 0 982

ICON's Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) instrument is an “imaging spectrometer”. Its 2 dimensional detector records spectral information over the range 58.4 to 83.4 nm in the one direction, and records 12 degree wide x 1/4 degree high slices of the sky over a 16 degree field of view in the other direction.

In preparation for alignment of the toroidal grating used in the EUV instrument, an optical system has been setup to simulate the cylindrical wavefront. This simulates the instrument’s view for each slice of sky while in orbit. The optical set up consists of a convex sphere and a concave toroid that produces a line image on the EUV entrance slit to simulate what EUV will observe in space. This optics pair will be used to first align the EUV instrument using visible light, then the final alignment will take place in a vacuum chamber using EUV radiation, since EUV light is not transmitted in air.

ICON skin is based on Greytness by Adammer
Background image, courtesy of NASA, is a derivitave of photograph taken by D. Pettit from the ISS, used under Creative Commons license