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Explorer (EX) Missions in Development

Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)

ICON MissionLaunch Date – June 2017
Phase B – Preliminary Design & Technology Development

The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) will explore the boundary between Earth and space, to understand the physical connection between our world and the immediate space environment around us.

This boundary region is where ionized plasma (the ionosphere) and neutral gas (our atmosphere) collide and react, causing dramatic variability that affects space-based technological systems like GPS. The ionosphere has long been known to respond to “space weather” drivers from the sun, but NASA missions, such as TIMED and IMAGE, have surprised us in showing this variability often occurs in concert with weather on our planet. ICON will compare the impacts of these two drivers as they exert change on the space environment that surrounds us.

ICON's science objectives are to understand: the sources of strong ionospheric variability; the transfer of energy and momentum from our atmosphere into space; and how solar wind and magnetospheric effects modify the internally-driven atmosphere-space system.
+ Learn more about the ICON Mission

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

TESS MissionLaunch Date – August 2017
Phase B – Preliminary Design & Technology Development

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will use an array of telescopes to perform an all-sky survey to discover transiting exoplanets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, in orbit around the nearest and brightest stars in the sky. Its goal is to identify terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. Its principal investigator is George Ricker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
+ Learn more about the TESS Mission