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
The 57-foot-long Pegasus XL rocket is released from the Orbital Carrier Aircraft off the east coast of Florida at an altitude of 39,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean and a speed of Mach 0.82.
T+00:05: First Stage Ignition
After falling for five seconds to a distance of about 300 feet below the L-1011, the first stage Orion 50S XL solid-fueled ...