Ionospheric Connection Explorer

The purpose of NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission is to explore how both terrestrial and space weather affect conditions in the ionosphere, the region of plasma forming the boundary between Earth and space. The ionosphere is energetically coupled to the thermosphere through collisions between ions, electrons, and neutral gas. These interactions often show extreme temporal and spatial variability, which can be very disruptive to global positioning satellites (GPS) and radio communications. ICON was launched on October 10, 2019, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SDL is part of the UC Berkeley-led team, who released the following video about the ICON mission.

SDL’s ICON-related Programs and Work


Ionospheric Connection Explorer - Far Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph

ICON's FUV instrument is designed to measure daytime thermospheric and nighttime ionospheric density profiles. SDL's contributions to the FUV instrument included designing, fabricating, and testing two CCD camera system, camera electronics, and the electronics for turret control.


Ionospheric Connection Explorer - Michelson Interferometer for Global High-Resolution Thermospheric Imaging

ICON's MIGHTI instrument is designed to measure neutral winds and temperatures. SDL's contributions to the MIGHTI instrument include designing, fabricating, and testing two synchronized CCD camera systems, camera electronics, and the CCD TEC control electronics.

ICON-Payload Integration & Test

SDL was responsible for the leading ICON payload integration and testing, which occurred at our headquarters in Logan, Utah. SDL was selected to lead this task due to the quality of our facilities and our expertise in electro-optical testing, calibration, and characterization of diverse sensor systems. To reduce integration time, cost, and risk, a high-fidelity mockup of the ICON payload was created using 3D printed parts prior to hardware integration. After integration, several payload-level tests were performed, including vibration, thermal vacuum (both thermal balance and thermal cycling), and EMI/EMC testing. SDL also provided contamination control support and monitoring along with quality assurance support throughout the integration and testing.