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Ion Velocity Measurements for the Ionospheric Connections Explorer

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The Ionospheric Connections Explorer (ICON) payload includes an Ion Velocity Meter (IVM) to provide measurements of the ion drift motions, density, temperature and major ion composition at the satellite altitude near 575 km. The primary measurement goal for the IVM is to provide the meridional ion drift perpendicular to the magnetic field with an accuracy of 7.5 m s−1 for all daytime conditions encountered by the spacecraft within \(15^{\circ }\) of the magnetic equator. The IVM will derive this parameter utilizing two sensors, a retarding potential analyzer (RPA) and an ion drift meter (IDM) that have a robust and successful flight heritage. The IVM described here incorporates improvements in the design and operation to produce the most sensitive device that has been fielded to date. It will specify the ion drift vector, from which the component perpendicular to the magnetic field will be derived. In addition it will specify the total ion density, the ion temperature and the fractional ion composition. These data will be used in conjunction with measurements from the other ICON instruments to uncover the important connections between the dynamics of the neutral atmosphere and the ionosphere through the generation of dynamo currents perpendicular to the magnetic field and collisional forces parallel to the magnetic field. Here the configuration and operation of the IVM instrument are described, as well as the procedures by which the ion drift velocity is determined. A description of the subsystem characteristics, which allow a determination of the expected uncertainties in the derived parameters, is also given.

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This work is supported by NASA grant NNG12FA44C. Successful conduct of the ICON mission and the IVM instrument is the result of key collaborations between teams at the University of California Berkeley, the University of Texas at Dallas and Orbital ATK. We thank the many participants from all these institutions that have resulted in this contribution to the ICON mission.

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Correspondence to R. A. Heelis.

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The Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission

Edited by Doug Rowland and Thomas J. Immel

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Heelis, R.A., Stoneback, R.A., Perdue, M.D. et al. Ion Velocity Measurements for the Ionospheric Connections Explorer. Space Sci Rev 212, 615–629 (2017).

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