The Ionospheric Connection Explorer - Prime Mission Review

Thomas J. Immel, Scott L. England, Brian J. Harding, Yen Jung Wu, Astrid Maute, Chihoko Cullens, Christoph R. Englert, Stephen B. Mende, Roderick A. Heelis, Harald U. Frey, Eric J. Korpela, Andrew W. Stephan, Sabine Frey, Michael H. Stevens, Jonathan J. Makela, Farzad Kamalabadi, Colin C. Triplett, Jeffrey M. Forbes, Emma McGinness, L. Claire GasqueJohn M. Harlander, Jean C. Gérard, Benoit Hubert, Joseph D. Huba, Robert R. Meier, Bryce Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The two-year prime mission of the NASA Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) is complete. The baseline operational and scientific objectives have been met and exceeded, as detailed in this report. In October of 2019, ICON was launched into an orbit that provides its instruments the capability to deliver near-continuous measurements of the densest plasma in Earth’s space environment. Through collection of a key set of in-situ and remote sensing measurements that are, by virtue of a detailed mission design, uniquely synergistic, ICON enables completely new investigations of the mechanisms that control the behavior of the ionosphere-thermosphere system under both geomagnetically quiet and active conditions. In a two-year period that included a deep solar minimum, ICON has elucidated a number of remarkable effects in the ionosphere attributable to energetic inputs from the lower and middle atmosphere, and shown how these are transmitted from the edge of space to the peak of plasma density above. The observatory operated in a period of low activity for 2 years and then for a year with increasing solar activity, observing the changing balance of the impacts of lower and upper atmospheric drivers on the ionosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Ion-neutral coupling
  • Ionosphere
  • Mesosphere
  • Thermosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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