Wednesday, April 17, 2013

UC Berkeley to construct next space weather satellite for NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has chosen the University of California, Berkeley to build a satellite that will examine how the Earth’s weather affects the weather at the edge of space. All data gathered from the satellite can be essential for enhancing extreme “space weather” forecasts that may disrupt GPS and radio communications.

Under the terms of agreement, which costs approximately $200 million, UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory is tasked to design, construct and operate the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission set for launch in 2017. UC Berkeley will command the satellite from its Mission Operations Center, which currently operates other NASA missions such as ARTEMIS, NuSTAR, RHESSI and THEMIS.

In order to enable scientists to predict space weather better, the ICON satellite will orbit at 345 mile above Earth in the ionosphere to gather data required to establish the connection between storms that occur near the Earth’s surface and space-weather storms. These can help airliners which cannot solely rely on GPS satellites to fly and land due to distorted satellite signals caused by charged-particle storms in the ionosphere.

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