A winged Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket dropped from the belly of a carrier jet off the east coast of Florida and fired into orbit Thursday with eight research satellites to fly around the tropics and return measurements of winds at the cores of hurricanes.
Trouble with a hydraulic pump needed to release Orbital ATK’s air-launched Pegasus XL rocket from its carrier jet Monday has delayed the deployment of eight NASA hurricane research satellites until at least Wednesday.
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 above Earth.
Take a look around the L-1011 jetliner, Pegasus rocket, and ground support gear at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Skid Strip for Monday’s scheduled launch of eight microsatellites to listen for winds inside hurricanes.
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.
Eight miniature weather observatories, each the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, were installed on a specially-designed deployer module and mounted on the front end of an air-launched Pegasus XL rocket to prepare for Monday’s flight into orbit.
Eight mini-satellites packed snug inside a Pegasus rocket slung under a modified jumbo jet will fire into orbit Monday off Florida’s East Coast, launching on a $157 million NASA mission that could help forecasters better predict how strong hurricanes will be when they strike land.