NASA and Northrop Grumman officials have not set a new target date for the launch of the ICON ionospheric research satellite aboard an air-launched Pegasus XL rocket following a mission abort Wednesday, and it could be weeks before the the long-delayed science probe has another chance to head into orbit off Florida’s east coast.
NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer satellite was scheduled to launch Wednesday aboard an air-dropped Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket over the Atlantic Ocean, but managers aborted the mission after encountering a technical concern with the rocket following departure from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launcher’s L-1011 carrier jet returned to Florida.
The launch of a NASA research satellite built to probe conditions along the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space has been tentatively rescheduled for no earlier than Wednesday, pending the conclusion of a review of unexpected data signatures discovered on the first stage of the mission’s air-launched Pegasus XL rocket.
Slung under the belly of a specially-equipped carrier airplane, a Northrop Grumman Pegasus rocket took off Wednesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on a two-day trek to a remote U.S. military test site in the Pacific Ocean, where crews will ready the air-dropped booster for launch of a NASA research satellite next week.
Engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center tasked with overseeing launches of scientific satellites and interplanetary probes will be responsible later this year for ensuring six major missions safely get into space over a span of a little more than six months, beginning with the launch of NOAA’s new GOES-S weather observatory on an Atlas 5 rocket March 1.