Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL rocket will take about 11 minutes to place NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, satellite into a roughly 357-mile-high (575-kilometer) orbit after an airborne launch off Florida’s east coast.
The nearly 53,000-pound (24-metric ton) rocket will drop from the belly of a modified L-1011 carrier plane, named Stargazer, flying on an easterly path over the Atlantic Ocean at an altitude of 39,000 feet (11,900 meters).
The Pegasus rocket, launching on its 44th orbital mission, will fire three solid-fueled stages in succession, then release NASA’s ICON satellite into orbit to begin a mission studying how weather in Earth’s atmosphere influences plasma conditions at the edge of space in the ionosphere, a boundary that can interfere with radio communications and satellite navigation.
The images below were recorded from a previous flight.
Data source: NASA/Northrop Grumman
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
A communications satellite developed in a public-private partnership between Luxembourg government and SES is set for launch Tuesday aboard a previously-flown SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from Cape Canaveral, ready for a 15-year mission beaming encrypted, jam-resistant signals for security and military forces across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Spaceflight Now visited the CYGNSS production facility at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and the Pegasus XL rocket’s carrier plane at Cape Canaveral for rare looks at hardware that make NASA’s $157 million hurricane research mission possible.
A decade in the making, the core stage for NASA’s first Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket rolled into the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center Thursday to join up with twin solid rocket boosters and an Orion capsule for an unpiloted test flight around the moon.