NASA to study weather in boundary layer between Earth and space

Artist’s representation of the ICON spacecraft in orbit. Image Credit: NASA

Artist’s representation of the ICON spacecraft in orbit. Image Credit: NASA

by CURT GODWIN, spaceflightinsider.com

„While most people tune-in to their local weather forecasts, and there are those who keep their eyes to the sky for the latest in space weather, the region in which they interact has been largely uncharted. NASA – with the help of two satellites planned for launch in 2018 – hopes to change that. At 60 miles (96.6 kilometers) in altitude, Earth’s ionosphere is host to a little-understood interplay between the electrically-neutral upper atmosphere and the rarified soup of electrically-charged particles created from solar radiation. This boundary layer is susceptible to influences from Earthly weather events and solar outbursts alike, and may be key to understanding how to better protect humans on the ground or hundreds of miles above it. Scheduled to launch atop an Ariane 5 rocket on January 25, 2018, the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk instrument will settle into a geostationary orbit as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite.

From its vantage point some 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above the equator, GOLD will image Earth in the far-ultraviolet spectrum. This view of our planet should allow scientists to observe changes to the ionosphere that they would otherwise be unable to see and allow for tightening of predictive models. Scheduled to launch atop an Ariane 5 rocket on January 25, 2018, the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk instrument will settle into a geostationary orbit as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite.From its vantage point some 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above the equator, GOLD will image Earth in the far-ultraviolet spectrum. This view of our planet should allow scientists to observe changes to the ionosphere that they would otherwise be unable to see and allow for tightening of predictive models. Indeed, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have posited that weather conditions fostered by El Niño may actually impact what happens in the ionosphere. Researchers hope that data from GOLD leads to clearer view of the interactions at work. Slated to launch later in 2018, and orbiting much closer to Earth, the Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite will provide the high-resolution counterpart to GOLD’s wide-angle view. Initially tapped to launch on December 8, 2017, on an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL, ICON was delayed to 2018 so that the company could assess a potential with the rocket.“

 

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