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.
The build-up of Orbital ATK’s next air-launched Pegasus XL rocket will start in the coming weeks at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and while its flight in mid-2017 is the last Pegasus launcher on the manifest with a confirmed payload, company officials are confident the unique vehicle has a future beyond next year.