Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket will take about eight minutes to reach orbit with NASA’s eight CYGNSS weather research microsatellites, then comes deployment of the spacecraft more than 300 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth.
The 51,000-pound (23-metric ton) rocket will drop from the belly of a modified L-1011 carrier plane, named Stargazer, flying on an east-southeast path over the Atlantic Ocean at an altitude of 39,000 feet (11,900 meters).
The Pegasus rocket, launching on its 43rd orbital mission, will fire three solid-fueled stages in succession, then release the eight Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System spacecraft two at a time.
The images below were recorded from a previous flight.
Data source: NASA/Orbital ATK
T-00:00: Pegasus Drop
T+00:05: First Stage Ignition
T+01:17: First Stage Burnout
T+01:33: First Stage Separation/Second Stage Ignition
Launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s Central Coast on its third try, United Launch Alliance’s Delta 2 rocket lifted off Saturday with NOAA’s JPSS 1 polar-orbiting weather satellite.
Northrop Grumman announced Monday plans to acquire Orbital ATK, a company with a portfolio ranging from satellite manufacturing and orbital servicing to launch vehicles, missile defense and munitions, for approximately $9.2 billion, a combination officials promised will lead to better products at lower prices.
Sara Seager is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at MIT, and she serves as deputy science director on NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which aims to find planets around stars relatively close to the sun, searching for worlds that are ideal follow-up targets for missions like the James Webb Space Telescope.