Rod Heelis, Ph.D., director of UT Dallas’ William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences, and his colleagues have been chosen to design and build an experiment that will fly onboard a new NASA satellite mission in 2017 to study space weather.
NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite will orbit about 350 miles above Earth, in a region of the upper atmosphere called the ionosphere. The satellite will carry a suite of instruments built by various institutions, including UT Dallas.
The UT Dallas instrument is called the Ion Velocity Meter. It will gather data at the site of the spacecraft, such as the velocity, temperature and density of ions, while other instruments will remotely measure the state of the neutral atmosphere below the satellite.
“This is an exciting opportunity to discover the reasons for the connections between surface weather and space weather that have only come to light in the last 10 years,” said Dr. Heelis.
Until recently, scientists thought that the sun was the sole driver of space weather. Evidence is mounting, however, that the Earth’s surface weather, such as run-of-the-mill thunderstorms, also can affect the ionosphere.