ICON - The Ionospheric Connection Explorer : A New Mission for Aeronomy and Space Weather

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 1:30 PM
Room C110 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Thomas J. Immel, University of California, Berkeley, CA; and S. B. Mende, S. L. England, J. Edelstein, R. A. Heelis, C. R. Englert, J. D. Huba, J. M. Forbes, H. U. Frey, O. H. Siegmund, J. M. Harlander, J. J. Makela, G. Crowley, F. Kamalabadi, A. Maute, A. W. Stephan, G. S. Bust, G. R. Swenson, D. L. Hysell, E. Korpela, A. Saito, S. Frey, M. Bester, and C. E. Valladares

The ionosphere is a highly variable layer of plasma surrounding Earth that is influenced from below by internal atmospheric waves of various scales and from above by solar and geomagnetic activity. Recent observational findings and modeling studies have raised many questions about the effects and interaction of these drivers in our geospace environment, and how these vary between extremes in solar activity. ICON will address the most compelling science issues that deal with the coupling of the ionosphere to the neutral atmosphere below and space above: 1) The highly variable nature of the electric field in the ionosphere and its potential link to thermospheric wind, 2) the effect of forcing from below: how large-scale atmospheric waves penetrate into the thermosphere and ionosphere, and 3) the effect of forcing from above: how ion-neutral coupling changes during solar and geomagnetically active periods. To address these, ICON will measure all key parameters of the atmosphere and ionosphere simultaneously and continuously with a combination of remote sensing and in-situ measurements. The scientific return from ICON is enhanced by dynamic operational modes of the observatory that provide capabilities well beyond that afforded by a static space platform. Selected for development by NASA, ICON will launch in early 2017 into a low-inclination orbit that is particularly well suited to address the above-noted scientific problems and to make a number of coordinated measurements with other ground- and space-based facilities at low and middle latitudes.