United Launch Alliance moved its next Atlas 5 rocket off its Florida launch pad Wednesday for inspections after a cooling duct unexpectedly disconnected before a planned countdown rehearsal to prepare for liftoff next month with the joint U.S.-European Solar Orbiter mission. The roll back to the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad could delay Solar Orbiter’s liftoff, which was scheduled for Feb. 5
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft — assembled in Britain and set for liftoff in February — has completed environmental testing in Germany and is scheduled to ride a cargo plane to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin launch preparations Oct. 31, several weeks earlier than planned to avoid complications stemming from Brexit.
After a 24-hour delay due to poor weather, an air-launched Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket fired into orbit at 9:59 p.m. EDT Thursday (0159 GMT Friday) after release from a carrier jet at an altitude of 39,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral. The Pegasus rocket carried NASA’s ICON satellite into orbit to collect measurements of the ionosphere.
After a year-long delay to troubleshoot recurring erroneous data signatures from the rudder of Northrop Grumman’s air-launched Pegasus XL rocket, NASA is eager to send a $252 million research satellite into orbit as soon as Thursday night off Florida’s east coast on a mission to probe the ionosphere, a region near the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.